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The Courage to Eat Out

September 21st, 2009

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 through the living room and she wouldn’t stir . . . well, so I theorize.

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 walla . . . dinner is served.  Time it just right and you could have taken her to a rave without a solitary cry or even 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 that 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 (tri-latary, I suppose . . . there were three of us.  Eat your heart out, Webster!) confinement of home that reminded us that we were more than just parents, we were also still husband and wife.

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 assured that we this particular opportunity for a “normal” meal out is completely ruined.  Enjoy your breadsticks, you heartless, childless beasts!

As you can tell, the mindset wasn’t always healthy.  Therefore, we decided to leave well enough alone for a season and dine in at almost every meal.  It was fun, especially since Laura is literally the best cook I know who doesn’t 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 shadow of yesteryear . . . a distant memory of social interaction that once dominated our evenings.  The food 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 that was heralded as “fussy time.”  Yeah, there were few candles lit . . . few desserts ordered from a kind waiter . . . few moments uninterrupted by the rantings of our beautiful, yet sometimes demanding, princess.  I jest with no regrets!  That was the beautiful season we were in and it brought much 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 that 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-ups.

Yet I was brave . . . well, and pretty 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 and pitiful stares of the other innocent patrons of the restaurant as my daughter’s voice rose louder and louder despite our best attempts to quell her protests.  Despite being torn, I imagined what it might be like to have someone walk up and offer to refill my drink . . . what it might sound like to hear “non-baby” music playing through the speakers.  The possibilities were tantalizing and 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 that had peel-off adhesive on one side and stuck to the table to provide a clean surface for Sadie to play and eat on.  We went at just the right time, making sure that our meal would align with Sadie’s meal time.  The bottle was made.  The puffy snacks were abundant.  We even secured a booth in a section of the restaurant devoid of other customers.  The stage was set.  Enter Sadie . . . stage center, as usual.

The story could go either way, but I’m still pleased to tell you that the stars aligned and the hope for eating out was reborn.  She sat, smiled, played, and ate like a little champ.  I found myself still holding my breath by my second refill, but then 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.  Of course, I captured the moment.

Sadie's First Great Restaurant ExperienceMommy's Gleeful Reaction

You see, sometimes it’s easy to let what happened yesterday trap us in the house of our insecurities.  The memories of failures are usually vivid within the recesses of our minds in a clarity that rivals any HD flatscreen out there.  At the end of the day, we usually don’t attempt that which we know we should do because we fear the worst . . . and have often experienced the worst.

But God is a much braver parent than I.  He’s ready to strap us in and drive our little selves to the very places that used to spell disaster in our lives.  He doesn’t lead us into temptation, but rather into the unknown (or sometimes the known) situations that usually rob our spiritual sensibilities and send 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 in our lives.  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 . . . 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, the menu may be different.


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