Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Baby Date

Going on a baby date is like going on a blind date. The conversation is awkward. Sometimes games are played. You don't know if the other person is going to like the food at the restaurant you chose. You leave feeling insecure about what you are wearing (on a baby date this is due to the fact that you are wearing most of your child's dinner). And then of course there is the chance that things could go really bad.

My tiny travel buddy and I have been on two dates this trip so far. We had breakfast together Sunday at a little restaurant in downtown Great Barrington called Martin's. Lil' Bit and I wake up usually between 5:30 and 7:30 on any given day. I decided that since Uncle George had other house guests, all of them 20 somethings who keep very different hours, my daughter and I should head out of the house early and start our day with a meal.

Whenever you walk into a restaurant before 8 am on a weekend you can be sure of one thing...families with children. On this particular Sunday there was a table by the window with a family of four...2 adults and 2 preteens looking particularly miserable as their parents described all the vacation activities for the day. Lil' Bit and I grabbed a table in the center of the restaurant, ordered a spinach and cheese omelete with a side of fruit, and so our baby date began.

Within five minutes of our food arriving another family walked in to the dining room. It was a middle aged couple with their son who was maybe 8 years old. Lil' Bit's sole purpose when dining out is to engage with as many people as possible, regardless of whether or not their food has arrived, or if they are in the middle of a heated conversation. She is so aware of her ecology, and her need to build relationships with all that is around her. Within seconds, Lil' Bit targeted the threesome at the table next to us.

First she went after the son, who had brought 2 race cars with him. He did his best to ignore Lil' Bit and focus on his cars, but when her gaze grew too unnerving he told his mom. The mom then began speaking to Lil' Bit asking her how she was doing, how are her eggs...telling her how adorable she is...and I responded for my baby in open ended questions...

"How are you little one? What do you think? Are your eggs good? What do you say? Do you say thank you?" We continued this conversation back and forth until their food arrived.

This is always the tricky part for people who have fallen into Lil' Bit's web. They don't want to be rude to the baby by ignoring her, but they want to eat their food. I try my best to distract her with her own meal, I give her ice to play with, and cold spoons to chew on, toys, crayons if available...but usually to no avail. I have to be honest, I find it facinating to watch grown ups try to ignore her. You can tell a lot about a person in how they react to unwanted baby flirtation.

The woman politely turned back to her family and began eating her food. Lil' Bit realized that she needed to step up her game. She began to pick up handfuls of omelet from her plate and throw them with great force down at the feet of the woman at the other table. Each landed with a splat. The woman looked down at the food and smiled, I am sure thinking to herself how glad she was to be done with the baby stage. I began picking the food up toss by toss, and then had the brilliant idea to remove her food from her reach. I asked for the check and paid cash as soon as it came, making a quick getaway.

Most meals I eat out with Lil' Bit end up on the floor of the restaurant. I say most, but not all because she loves Indian food and rarely does any of it end up anywhere but her mouth or shirt. Lil' Bit and I went out for Indian last night and had a feast.

First of all, this restaurant had booths, which I find essential to a successful baby date. I plop Lil' Bit down in the the booth next to me, kick up my leg along the edge so she doesn't fall, and we both peruse the menu. Me with my eyes, her with her mouth.
We ordered veggies samosas, chicken tikka marsala, and spinach stuffed naan.

As we waited for our meal to arrive Lil' Bit immediately tried to scale the back of the booth. The heads of two Indian men peaked up over the edge of the booth next to us. The temptation of their beautiful thick black hair was too much for her. For ten minutes she tried to reach and grab and peek at them, until she got her shoe stuck in the crack of the booth and she gave up.
Luckily, after a few rounds of peekaboo, the food came.

I transferred her to the high chair and she was content munching down all that was in front of her. We finished the meal with a fantastic rice pudding sprinkled with cardamon. As we were waiting for the check she demanded to sit in the booth, where she decided to crawl at top speed traversing the four feet of booth, only to ram her head into the wall next to it. Lil' Bit let out a mind splitting cry, which brought our check and doggy bags back to our table remarkably quickly.

Baby dates, like bad blind dates, have the tendency to end abruptly. There is also that moment of relief when you get into your car and you know that it is over. You buckle your seat belt and drive a way with a little bit of guilt, not because you know you are not going to call the next day, but because you left a pile of food under the table for the waiter to clean up. At the same time, the mess is half the reason why you decided not to eat at home in the first place. Better them than me, so I just make sure to leave them a great tip to make it worth their while.

No comments: