Today was my (technically speaking) third Mother's Day. Last year--the first in which Monkey had actually emerged from the womb--was nice, but like every holiday, this one was more exciting than last year because my son can now understand the idea of something special taking place. At the very least, he can understand that somebody unwrapping a present is in good spirits and for good reason, even if he has no idea that he's supposedly given these presents.
The morning already started out great because Monkey has just begun parroting things in a clear voice, so when my parents had him repeat, one word at a time, the words "Happy" "Mama's" "Day" I thought my heart was going to explode in pride and cuteness overload.
Then my Dad made brunch for my Mom and me, and then we opened gifts before Monkey--who'd woken up at 6:15 this morning--pooped out and took his nap. I was waiting around all afternoon for him to wake up so we could head down to San Jose to visit with Nicole and daughters. Monkey is always so happy when he visits with them that these days I want to make that happen as much as possible. Seeing him so sweet and smiley with his little "girlfriend" Sureya makes me unbelievably happy.
On the drive down I called and talked to my friend Kelsi to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. During the drive I mentioned that I wanted to go out to dinner tonight--to a sit-down restaurant, just Monkey and me, but that I was a little nervous about the idea. Normally if I'm out at a sit-down restaurant with him there is some kind of family occasion happening, which means a minimum of two extra sets of hands to help and step in if and when the munchkin gets squirrelly. I was a little intimidated by the idea of being the only one there in a setting where it's not as easy to escape quickly if it seems time to go as it is in a cafe-type setting.
When I shared this with her, Kelsi reminded me of my own advice to her when she shared similar fears with me last year, when her son was about Monkey's age. She said that I told her she should just expect that it will go easily and smoothly, don't put any energy toward the idea that what we were going to do would be difficult, and to kind of communicate that expectation with him through my actions. 'Gee,' I have to admit I thought, 'that was pretty good advice.' And because I'd given it to another Mom I felt obligated at that point to follow it, if only because if it turns out the advice was actually horrible, at least I'd tortured myself with it as well. Any guilt would be relieved.
Today's New Activity: Mama/Son Sit-Down Dinner Date
When we got to the restaurant the waiting area was absolutely packed with large parties of people and their Mamas, waiting to be sat. I didn't figure that a table for just me and a high chair would take too long on a day when large tables were the object of desire, but the hostess still promised a 40-minute wait. Incidentally, I never ever take hosts and hostesses word for it on the wait time. I guess they don't want to get in trouble with people by promising shorter than actual wait times, but to avoid that they seem to literally double the time people can really expect to wait. Still, a small part of me wondered what kind of madness could ensue if I really were to subject Monkey to 40 minutes doing nothing in his stroller BEFORE asking him to sit still and have a sit-down dinner at a packed restaurant where the food wait time would likely be long as well.
Good thing I didn't have to find out. We spent 10-15 minutes waiting, Monkey entertained quite contently with a lollipop (I'm all for keeping a positive attitude and holding high expectations, but a wee bit of bribe material to grease the wheels doesn't hurt now and then either).
I have to say I had to take a deep breath and kind of psyche myself up for this outing. It wasn't only my nervousness about how Monkey (at the tender and fidgety age of 19 months) would fair during the dinner. It was the thought of the absolute in-your-faceness of my single motherhood. Here we were, just Monkey and me and my wedding ringless finger. It somehow seemed like it shouldn't be allowed. Like outings like this are reserved for people who've done it right and properly, and that people who've screwed it up like I have should be hiding in their single mom caves, eating Wal-Mart frozen dinners and watching monster truck rallies on pay-per-view.
On one hand, I worried that people would be judging me disapprovingly. On the other, I worried they'd feel sorry for me. I've matured enough (especially as a result of becoming a mother) that I can handle the former; the latter, on the other hand, seemed unbearable.
The solution to that was to just put both ideas out of my mind and enjoy my date for the blessing that it was.
And it was wonderful.
Monkey was a little squirmy at first. I had him sitting on my lap because I knew he'd likely get tired of the high chair before the food came. He look a little while to settle in and stop grabbing for everything, but when he did he was super mellow, just hanging out on my lap and drinking the water our server had brought.
He only cried once, when I transfered him from my lap to the highchair. And for a second my heart panicked a bit, wondering if I'd have to jump ship on this idea before the fun even began. But I just refused to go down that road. I looked into my son's eyes and calmly reminded him that we were civilized people who didn't behave that way in restaurants. After about 20 seconds he calmed down and I pulled up a song video on my phone to distract him (more greasing the wheels, but the temporary distraction went a long way).
From that point on he was sweet and happy and even ate a robust dinner of deep-dish pizza. After a while I decided he could have some of my lemonade, though I knew this would lead to his wanting ALL of my lemonade, and when he whined for more I sang him the appropriate-for-the-occasion Rolling Stones lyrics (aren't there some for ALL occasions?): "You can't always get what you want..." This made him smile and then try to win more lemonade on pure cuteness, cocking his head and smiling and batting his big black eyes at me (where do they learn this stuff?), which I resisted until the very end of the meal, by which point I was happy to reward him for the very special, very enjoyable time together. By the way I'm not anti-lemonade for the kiddo (though I do limit his juice intake and let him drink mostly water, but I just know that if I let him get started drinking something sweet, he'll fill up and lose interest in food. Just so you don't think I'm a meanie!
I was so, so proud of him. And I felt infused with much-needed confidence in my own parenting ability. I feel like you never really know how well you're doing until your progress is tested, and I felt we both passed this test pretty well. And I also felt good about overcoming my instinct to want to hide myself under a cloak and apologize for not having walked the straight line of marriage and motherhood. As I've mentioned before, I want my son to grow up with acceptance of who he is and accountability in his choices, and showing him by example is the best way I can think to start him on that path.
Thank you to my dear, sweet son for a wonderful Mother's Day :)