About five minutes after our arrival at Cracker Barrel this morning, the words of my dear friend Lauren Leonard reverberated on the inner walls of my head, "There was a certain age, where we just didn't leave the house." This quote refers to a period of time when Lauren's youngest, Avery, was unfit for pleasant, public outings. I tried to recall what that certain age was ... newborn, 12-month mark, toddler--oh wait, then I remembered the cautionary-public-outing period is nondiscriminatory. From newborn to 18-years-old, any outing with kids is a toss up really. Yes?
That being said ... back to Cracker Barrel--where in the section of toys, 19-month-old twins Elizabeth and Julia are becoming feisty. Feisty at 8a.m. at Cracker Barrel manifests in the following manner: starving baby bellies (mom didn't think pre-meal snacks), leads to the realization we are not at home, therefore usual rules of conduct do not apply, thus followed by an eruption of fits in the toy and dining areas of Cracker Barrel. Okay, 19-months--definitely a cautionary-public-outing age.
Meanwhile, while mom and feisty twins attempted distraction and solace in a fake hamster in a wheel, Dad, three-year-old sissy, Laura, and out of town friend Natalie (poor Natalie), waited patiently for us to join them in the dining area. Of course, mom's stroke of genius in the fake hamster swiftly turned against her. The trek from toy section to dining table was horridly akin to those never-ending-hallway movie scenes, combined with those dreams where everyone around you is staring at you because you're naked. On each hip I precariously tried balancing a back-arching, screaming, writhing twin. The screams broke just long enough for me to hear a woman in front of me clearly tell the rest of her table, "It's a good thing we're not sitting next to them!" Twin screams resume here.
I'd like to say that once our food arrived (which of course seemed like a century) that I was second guessing 19-months as a CPO age (cautionary-public-outing in case you forgot), but alas ... the twins were so traumatized by not having breakfast within 15 minutes of waking, combined with their forced separation from fake hamster, that food simply could not console them. Elizabeth in particular after multiple switch from straw to no straw, lid to no lid, and multiple "can we get some more milk" requests to our waitress, was beside herself saturated in milk and mom's anxiety. I longingly salivated at my egg sandwich, growing cooler by the minute, casting semi-envious/dirty looks at Paul, Natalie, and even sissy Laura as they chomped down on some good grub.
Willing Elizabeth through mommy osmosis and yes, more milk, to cease her wiggling and screaming, Julia soon caught wind of this fun game and began her own wiggle/scream session. Amidst the screams I became aware of the laser beam eyes of fellow patrons burning holes on all sides of my head. "GIVE ME THE KEYS TO THE VAN," I hollered to my husband across the table. "Aren't you going eat your breakfast?" he asked matter-of-factly? Um--no. In fact, for dramatic emphasis, I shoved my plate to the middle of the table before stomping away.
Seconds later, Elizabeth and I found ourselves plopped in our perspective rocking chairs outside of the Cracker Barrel--mommy in a big chair, Lizzy in a smaller version. There we sat like two defeated old ladies doused in the milk of a failed breakfast. As we silently rocked, the patrons seated near our table began to exit the Cracker Barrel, heading in our direction toward the parking lot. Elizabeth and I both hung our heads in shame (don't let them fool you, those babies know!). But much to my surprise, each couple or group that passed commented on how cute my girls are and how they remembered a time of cautionary-public-outings in their own family.
As I looked at my little rocking buddy, I felt a little embarrassed; not because of her behavior or of sister Julia's tantrum, but for my own. It appeared that the biggest baby at that table was me. They were acting just how 19-month-old kids are supposed to. Perhaps CPO's are more about "us" than "them." Sure they'll reach ages and stages that may prove more or less appealing for public outings, but always keep in mind ... it might just be you that's the biggest baby at the table.