Last week, my neighbor Sue and I went out for dinner without the kids. We had been planning it for about a year and every time we nailed down a date, inevitably someone would have a concert or a sleepover or diarrhea or a golf game that was never noted on the all-mighty calendar which drove his wife utterly insane and our dinner would never come to fruition.
So when Sue called me at 4:00 pm and said her husband was actually going to be home to watch the kids and no one was throwing up there and I said Zoe was actually going to be home to watch Helena and no one was throwing up here, we were silent for a moment, totally unprepared for this turn of events and trying to process what it all meant. Not wanting to jinx myself, I whispered “are you sure?” and she whispered back “yes” and then we both screamed and danced around and yelled “see you later!” and hung up. I ran upstairs to get dressed in decent clothes. And by decent, I mean clothes that had no paint, food or chemical stains on them and actually fit without the use of safety pins or duct tape.
After writing down all emergency numbers for her husband, as well as explicit instructions as to how to feed, bathe, entertain and otherwise keep alive their two young children, Sue ran from her house and drove up my driveway at 5:00.
Judging by the reactions of my children, you would have thought that I was abandoning them for a night out of clubbing and wild drinking and whooping it up. I haven’t whooped since … I don’t remember the last time I whooped. It was at least two kids and 821 stretch marks ago. I don’t know how to whoop anymore.
Me: OK – I love you guys! OK! I’m leaving! Love you! Please stop blocking the doorway. Love you! You need to move now. Get up, please. Love you! If you continue to barricade the door, I will simply jump out the window.
Zoe: This is so unfair. You go out all the time.
Me (looking behind me): Who are you talking to?
Zoe: You do!
Me: Have we met? You must be talking about your other mother because I do not go out.
Helena: You just went out yesterday!
Me: Grocery shopping does not qualify as “going out.” Neither does taking you to the doctor for your shot or returning movies to Blockbuster.
Helena: What about all those times you went to Bunco?
Me: Honey, that was one night a month for two hours. And if you recall, I quit Bunco over a year ago so that I could take you to swimming. You have playdates all the time. Mommy needs a playdate sometimes too.
Zoe: What are we supposed to eat? There’s nothing to eat in this house.
Me: I have a receipt for $249.61 somewhere in the bottom of my purse that would beg to differ with you.
Zoe: Where are you going?
Me: I’ve already told you, we are going to Cracker Barrel.
Helena: Why can’t we come?
Me: Because Mommy needs some grown up conversation. That makes Mommy happy and when Mommy is happy, we’re all happy. Anyone remember what happens when Mommy is sad?
Helena: You can talk to Daddy! Daddy’s a grown up!
Me: Let me rephrase. Mommy needs to talk to an adult who enthusiastically participates in stimulating conversation with no coercion.
Helena: What does that mean? Stop using big words.
Zoe: Will you bring us back something? Can you bring us back dinner? Can you bring us a pizza on your way home?
Me: We have a ton of food here! That doesn’t happen very often so take advantage of it. Go introduce yourself to the pantry. Now if you don’t move, I will step right over you and you know how iffy my balance is when I haven’t eaten. Don’t come crying to me if I accidentally crush your spleen.
Zoe: What time will you be home?
Me: In a couple of hours. My phone will be on, in case of an emergency. Now, who remembers the rule?
Zoe and Helena in unison: Don’t call unless we’re bleeding or throwing up or dead.
Me: That’s my girls! I love you both! Now, roll out of the way, please.
After several more kisses and “I love you’s” I managed to extricate myself from my house and jumped into Sue’s car and off we went to Cracker Barrel for our first real, live, grown-up dinner together.
As soon as we were seated, we busied ourselves inspecting the silverware, pushing the sugar packet bowl all the way back to the wall and collecting all the knives into one pile out of harm’s way.
Waitress: What can I get you ladies tonight?
I had to smile. The last time I was called a lady was … I don’t remember.
Sue: I’ll have the chicken and dumplings with a side of mashed potatoes, please. Sit up straight and keep your elbows off the table. Oh, and a coke, please.
Me: Scratch that coke and give her a milk. Don’t you want strong and healthy bones? I feel like doing something special tonight so I’m going to have breakfast for dinner! Won’t that be fun? I’ll have the french toast with a side of hash brown casserole, please. And an ice water, no lemon.
We smiled brightly at the waitress as she left to place our order.
Me: Can you believe it? I’m actually out at a restaurant and didn’t have to order chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese. I feel like a real, live grown up! Put your napkin on your lap, sweetie. How about you?
Sue: Oh my God, I can so relate! No sippy cups, no children’s menu, no hot dogs. Elbows, honey. I don’t want to remind you again. So, what have you been up to?
Me: I went school supply shopping today. Managed to buy all 739 items on the list! Stop biting your lip, do you want it to bleed? How about you?
Sue: I went through all my kids’ clothes, got them sorted out into piles labeled Keep, Donate and Burn. Stop fidgeting and face front, please. I can’t believe how fast they’re growing!
Ring. Ring. Ring.
Sue: Hello? … no, do not stick your hands in there … just flush it and we’ll get you another one … do not do that … put Daddy on the phone … yes, it’s OK to wake him up.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
Me: Hello? No, you may not go swimming … because I am not there … Zoe is not me … because you could drown … what do you mean, so what? … because I said so … put Zoe on the phone … yes, she has to speak to me … because I said so.
Despite a few interruptions, we continued chatting until our waitress arrived with our dinners. As I leaned over to cut Sue’s chicken, we tossed around various ideas for upcoming birthday parties. As she leaned over to wipe the crumbs off my chin, we discussed the improvement we’d seen recently in back-to-school fashion.
We celebrated the fact that she had finally eaten an entire dinner in one sitting while it was hot without having to share it with anyone under three feet tall and that I had finally gone through an entire dinner without having to hear the telephone ring incessantly for everyone other than me.
We absolutely reveled in being kidless grownups for a few short hours.
We finished our meals and when the waitress arrived, we contemplated dessert.
Sue: We shouldn’t. You didn’t finish your dinner and you know the rule. Dessert is the absolute last thing I need.
Me: I know. I think my eyes are bigger than my stomach.
Sue: I’ll have the cheesecake.
Me: And I’ll have the chocolate brownie sundae pie.
When the check arrived, we dove into our purses and pulled out fives and tens along with tissues, antibacterial wipes, Chapstick, Nintendo DS games, library overdue notices, Littlest Pet Shop figures, DVDs, extra socks, CD’s, matchbox cars, a mitten from last winter, and sunblock. We proceeded to the lobby and paid our bill.
Sue: I need to go potty before we get going. You should try going potty too, just in case.
Me: Good idea. Remember, do not touch anything in there! Do you remember how to hover?
Sue: I’m good. Let me know if you can’t reach the lever with your foot – sometimes they’re pretty high.
As we finished up in the rest rooms, we mulled over the possibility of going to a movie.
Me: Use enough soap. Remember to rinse it all off or it will irritate your skin. I don’t think I’ll have enough time for a movie. I need to get home and make sure Zoe and Helena haven’t killed each other yet.
Sue (sighing): Yeah, you’re right. I suppose I should make sure my kids aren’t playing “hold our breath until we’re blue” while their father isn’t looking. Make sure that water is hot. Here, use a paper towel to turn it off. It’s getting late, anyway – it’s almost 7:00! I’m exhausted.
We left the restaurant and after we ensured we were both properly buckled in our seats and I had a magazine to keep me occupied, we made our way back to my house. Once we arrived, Zoe and Helena whipped open the front door and looked at me accusingly when I emerged from the car with no styrofoam containers.
Sue: Watch your fingers, you don’t want them slammed in the door. We really need to do this more often!
Me: Definitely. It’s so refreshing to have some “me” time and not focus all my energy on the kids. Make sure you brush your teeth before you go to bed and rinse it out really well.
Sue: I’ll call you. Night night!
Me: Looking forward to it! Sleep tight!
We made plans to do it again the next time we had a free night or after our kids’ high school graduations, whichever came first.