The other night my sister and I went out for an impromptu dinner with the kids. Kid-friendly Ruby Tuesdays was the not-so-lucky locale for this outing, as my sister’s son Dashiell loves the salad bar and she likes the vegetarian options.
Maeve, however, wasn’t having it at all. It began as soon as I took her out of her carseat. She didn’t want to leave the side of the car, her feet planted firmly on the pavement, her top half swaying toward me as I took her hand and tried to walk forward.
Shoulda been a clue.
As I attempted to place her in her highchair, all toddler hellfire broke loose. This wasn’t a meltdown — it was more like self-combustion. Absolute hysterics, I tell you. In fact, I’m sure she was way past the point of even knowing what she was crying about.
As Dashiell was trying to talk over her to show me something about the maze on the kids’ menu, and my sister and I were trying to calm her down, the waiter approached and introduced himself. All I heard was “person,” “serving,” “today.” Lucky him.
We couldn’t hear him over the babyshrill let alone concentrate on what we’d order, so we (loudly) requested more time. By now I was thinking we might just need to go. Pitying those around us and not wanting to ruin their evening, I was about to suggest this change of plans when my sister headed off to the salad bar to grab some finger food to console the wild beast. (I say this with love, folks, so no nasty e-mails, please.)
Meanwhile, I remembered I had pink bunny cookies in my purse — don’t ask, I’ve also got six CDs, a yo-yo that lights up, a flattened granola bar or two, a lint brush, a plastic egg holding a red bouncy ball, my family’s fortune in loose coins, three ballpoint pens that don’t work, about a half-dozen wrapped tampons floating loose all willy-nilly, a bottle of generic Tylenol, a diaper, an envelope of horse-sized Advil gelcaps from my latest dentist visit, a pair of Maeve’s socks rolled into a ball, a red Sharpie marker, a booklet of kiddie ride tickets for this summer at the boardwalk, and Sandra Boynton’s Hey Wake Up book — and so I simultaneously broke every good parenting rule and handed her the cookies as a peace (and quiet) offering. Hush money, if you will. Just … make … the … screaming … stop.
Between the cookies and the snacks my sister brought back from the salad bar, Maeve calmed down. (Although the fiery look in her eyes had us fearful her head would spin again at any moment.)
Problem is, we began to think we were added to some sort of Ruby’s Watch List. In fact, we’re pretty sure there now are sketches of us taped up in back. You see, we hadn’t ordered yet, which means Maeve ate seven stolen grapes and five stolen raisins. My 21-month-old could very well have a permanent record.
While we waited for the server so we could place our order (which included salad bars, folks), the hostess hovered near our table, pretending to be checking out Something Very Important somewhere very close to the little plate in front of Maeve. Good at playing hostess, not so good at playing detective.
As my sister and I debated if we were just being paranoid, our dinner arrived and it was the manager who delivered it. He questioned if he was “missing food for the kids.” Now absolutely sure we were the latest denizens on Ruby’s Watch List, we pointed out that both kids were eating the salad bar. He smiled something short of an actual smile and left. Moments later he was talking to Detective Hostess.
As soon as we could get our waiter’s attention, we explained that it seemed folks were worried we’d ordered for the kids and we wanted to confirm with him that he had, in fact, heard us order the salad bar for both of them. He seemed confused, agreed we’d ordered for them, and claimed he didn’t know of anything amiss.
Before too long, Detective Hostess, Manager Man and our waiter were talking in a restaurant huddle.
Before we left the not-so-relaxing dinner, I headed to the ladies room. My sister had both kids at the table and before I’d even exited the stall, I heard their voices in the bathroom. I actually wondered if something had happened back at the table related to the Grapes Security Breach, but it turns out Dash just needed the restroom.
As we waited, she and I reminded one another that the next time we get the bright idea for an impromptu Girls’ Night Out with the kids, one of us should shoot the other first as that would be less painful.
As we laughed, he suddenly bellowed, “Get!Her!Out!Of!Here!” We looked over, and all we could see was Maeve’s tush as she was squeezing herself under the door to his stall like she was a limbo finalist.
“Da-shiell!” she cooed and giggled, happy to have found him in this self-created game of hide-n-seek.
“Mo-om!” he yelled, flustered and embarrassed.
Rrrrright. Time to go.
On the drive home, both of us exhausted, we wondered aloud if our husbands could have done better. We assured ourselves they couldn’t — ahem, ahem — and vowed that one day soon we’d suggest they take the kids out for some good father-child-brother-in-law-cousin bonding time.
And we’d head out for a mani and pedi. Yes, that sounded nice.
But by the time we pulled into my driveway, our plan morphed instead into an Evening of Espionage as we agreed we should instead trail the guys and watch from afar — as part of “Operation Can They Leave Less Food on the Floor And Avoid The Ruby Tuesdays’ Sketch Artists?”
Now that’s a Girls’ Night Out.