Before Steve and I were someone’s parents, we went out to eat a lot. We really love dining out – the service, the foods that we don’t have the gumption to make ourselves, drinks, and leaving and doing whatever we wanted next – rather than the dishes. Although our hobbies are entirely different, we came together in a mutual enjoyment of eating out. It was our jam. We would read menus online before going out to eat, deciding days ahead of time what we’d eat, or sometimes “seeing what we’re in the mood for” and deciding that day (oh the spontaneity!)
But then, Brandon was born. I remember the first couple days home from the hospital, not wanting homemade dinners, but rather for someone to pick me up some To Go food. We were confined to our home those first few weeks, and cabin fever set in – it was the newness of diverging from our routine that bothered me more than my lack of mobility and change.
Of course, we tried to go out to eat in our new role as a family, but found it so much more difficult than it had been as a couple (massive understatement. I would expound, but I’ve done that already last time we ate out together).
As time goes on, occasionally Steve and I check in with each other:
“Do you think maybe we could–”
“No way. Not yet. With Holden?!?”
“But he’s older now…”
“Do you remember when we took Brandon out to eat at the age Holden is now?”
“Oh yeah…that was a nightmare. Never mind then.”
But tonight, we bit the bullet. We discussed our kid-friendly options and settled on Red Robin because of their swiftness, distractions from waiting, and balloons. And because a greasy burger always sounds good. And then we braced ourselves for what we had gotten ourselves into.
But despite our skepticism, our children behaved. I didn’t once have to walk Holden around the restaurant, like I did with Brandon at that age. Holden never screamed and threw only 10% of his food on the floor. Brandon was loud, but it was enthusiasm rather than frustration. Somehow, although those emotions register at the same decibel, the happy one is permissible. Probably because emotions are contagious and I allow my kids to spread joy, but not anger.
Could it really be that we have reached that stage where our family is able to do normal things? We are beyond rushing home for bottles and I have become comfortable changing Holden’s diaper in public restrooms and our car (Holden, however, is not). Shamefully, I’ve even taught Brandon to pee on our tire when we’re outdoors or out garage saleing.
I don’t know how we could possibly discuss having any more kids once we acclimate ourselves to this new kind of freedom. Although of course it’s nothing like the freedom we once had as a couple, it is liberating after years of being recluses because of a baby. We are a family and we are acting like a couple. That is true liberation.
Is freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish? Nothing else.