Chronicles of Sadie

The Courage to Eat Out Again

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Some aspects of parenting a newborn were simplistic. Simply put, she slept eighteen hours every day—and when she slept, she slept hard! You could drive a Mack truck towing a carnival ride on fire through the living room and she wouldn’t stir—well, so I theorize. I have never tried it to find out.

Since Laura and I have always considered eating out at restaurants a sport at which we strive to achieve global dominance (instead, I achieved high cholesterol and broken belt loops), newborn Sadie was a cinch. A real team player. Pop her in her little car seat and—VOILA—dinner is served. In those early days, if you timed it just right, you could have taken her to a rave without a solitary cry. Not a peep.

Now I’m not trying to make it sound better than it actually was. I should mention that Laura was still recovering from the c-section and we were getting up several times a night for feedings and other adventures in parenting. We were tired, but stable. Sometimes a night out at a restaurant was just the normalcy we needed—the peek outside the solitary confinement of home (tri-latary, I suppose—there were three of us. Eat your heart out, Webster!) Eating out reminded us that we were more than just parents, we were also still husband and wife. For that matter, we were still humans.

But as quickly as it came, the newborn stage sailed off over the horizon never to return again. Sadie became more aware. More engaged. Less sleepy. More susceptible to being woke up by the unintentionally loud laughing of the table next to ours in the restaurant. Thanks! I’m glad you’re having a great time and all, but you just guaranteed that this particular opportunity for a “normal” meal out is completely ruined. Enjoy your breadsticks, you heartless, childless beasts!

As you can tell, my mindset was not always healthy. So we decided to leave well enough alone for a season and dine in most every meal. It was fun, especially since Laura is literally the best cook I know who does not have a show on television. You think I’m just trying to earn husband brownie points, but I couldn’t be more serious. I pray that someday your taste buds will be graced by the brilliance of her culinary concoctions.

Eating out became a shadowy remnant of yesteryear—a distant memory of social interaction that once graced our evenings. The food at home was just as good, but we didn’t exactly dress up and we often “dined” to the music of Baby Einstein blaring from the television as baby girl searched for her nighttime solace in the hour before bed heralded as “fussy time.” There were few romantic candles lit. Few decadent desserts ordered from a kind waiter. Few moments were uninterrupted by the babblings of our beautiful, yet sometimes demanding, princess. I jest with no regrets! It was a beautiful season and it brought with it exponentially more magic than disappointment. But simply in the context of eateries, we kept our distance in an effort to keep the peace.

This went on for several months until one fateful evening in May of 2009. I don’t know what possessed us to think of it, but Laura suggested the unthinkable. “Maybe we should go to restaurant tonight for dinner.” When she said it, I remember thinking her words seemed unintelligible. Just like Latin, they were beautiful, yet mere remnants of a dead language that my soul had simply forgotten amidst bottles, diapers, and spit-up.

Yet I was brave—well, and obedient too. On one hand, Sadie had indeed grown up quite a bit since our last meal out. On the other, I recalled in the memoirs of my mental filing cabinets the haunting stares of anger or pity from the other innocent patrons of the restaurant as my daughter’s voice rose louder and louder despite our best attempts to quell her protests. I was torn, but then I imagined what it might be like to have someone walk up and offer to refill my drink. Or what it might sound like to hear “non-baby” music playing through through something other than a baby monitor.

The possibilities were tantalizing. I gave in. To Ruby Tuesday we were headed.

Ah, but yet again my wife amazed me with her brilliance. She came prepared with a nifty little cover for the highchair and a paper mat with peel-off adhesive on one side. She stuck it to the table to provide a clean surface for Sadie to play and eat on. Also, we went at just the right time, making sure our meal time perfectly aligned with Sadie’s feeding time. The bottle was pre-made. Sadie’s puffy snacks (aka, appetizers) were abundantly supplied. We even secured a booth in a section of the restaurant devoid of other customers.

The stage was set. Enter Sadie—center stage, as usual.

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The story could go either way, but I’m pleased to tell you that the stars aligned and the hope for eating out was born anew. She sat, smiled, played, and ate like a little champ. By my second drink refill, I realized I was still holding my breath, just waiting for Sadie’s “bottom to fall out” or something of the sorts.

But all remained calm. I began to relax and soak it all in. My sweetheart on one side. My little girl in between. No screaming. No crying. And Sadie was fine too! The world was right and I was its king.

You see, sometimes it’s easy to let what happened yesterday trap us in the house of our insecurities. Memories of failures are usually vividly seared within the recesses of our minds in a clarity that rivals any HD flatscreen television. Thus, we often do not attempt that which we know we should do because we fear the worst will only happen yet again.

But God is a much braver parent than me. He’s ready to strap us in and drive our little selves to the very places which used to spell disaster for us. He does not lead us into temptation, but rather into the unknown (or sometimes the known) situations that at one time robbed our spiritual sensibilities and sent us running for the door. Why? Because today is a new day and he is confident that new synapses have fired in our little spirits. New potential has surfaced. New foods are ready to be tasted.

What a difference time makes! What sent us screaming yesterday may just be the most pleasant experience of our lives today. As scripture points out, That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” (II Corinthians 4:16 NLT) The “every day” part is what we often miss. While time seems so slow to the one with the watch, inside of us God’s Spirit is at work bringing to maturity that which has always been childish up to now. Bringing to the forefront that which has always been buried. Bringing to our hearts the hope that has always been dormant.

So take a chance and venture to the place you once dreaded to go. Today is a new day and you are a new you.

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