“Boys, we’re all hungry and we’re near our favorite sushi restaurant. Who wants to go?”
“Meeeeee!!!!!,” they all cheered in unison.
Dave and I squatted down and got on their level. “OK, guys, so if we do this, you have to promise us you’ll try your best and sit still so we can all have a nice time, right?”
“Yes mom! Sure, uh-huh!,” they all consented enthusiastically.
Stop. Now read the title again. Dear reader, I am already cluing you in that we are a hopeful couple. And we were hungry. Which clouded our judgement. And we were so darn tired of doing whatever they wanted that we wanted to do something WE wanted. We served those kids all day and all we wanted was for someone else to serve us some delicious sushi. I should be asleep right now, but I must write about this night before my memory melts into the backs of my eyelids.
We rolled up to Sakana (simply the best little non-fancy sushi place in Phoenix) and I got out of the car and gave the hostess our name. I went back to the car to help unload all the boys.
The second we walked in, TJ spotted a basket of peppermints on the hostess station. Ugh. He started gesticulating wildly. Decision: Do I let him have candy now or have him throw a fit about it when I tell him “No?” That was an easy one. Here’s a peppermint, kid. BEFORE dinner. Of course, the other two caught wind and everyone wanted one. Fantastic. Here you go. Peppermints for all.
Two seconds later, they’re done with their peppermints and showed us their sticky hands. I supervised the sticky-mess hand-washing.
The boys all marched into the restroom to wash their hands and use the potty and then we all sat down at the table. I strategically placed everyone around the table. There were breakables on the wall on one side so I put the two older boys on that side as I knew they were past messing with that sort of thing. Dave sat in the middle to be a buffer. I took the seat next to TJ on the other side so I could reach all the other boys and play zone defense. Kasparov, in all his brilliance wasn’t thinking as far ahead as I was right at that moment.
I am already cluing you in that we are a hopeful couple. And we were hungry. Which clouded our judgement. And we were so darn tired of doing whatever they wanted that we wanted to do something WE wanted.
For three minutes everything was quiet. The hopeful little voice sprang again. “Look! Everyone is sitting quietly! This is going to be great! Everyone will kum-bah-yah and bond happily over sushi!” Shut up little voice. You are clearly under the influence of hunger and exhaustion.
TJ was over it the second we sat down. He spied the chopsticks. Promptly unwrapped them, broke them apart, then started brandishing them. I swiftly claimed those little eye-pokers and he started protesting. I got up from the table, manhandled him and manually escorted him outside before the fit started. We may have had clouded judgement, but we’re professionals, people. We know when the storm’s a-comin.
So I let him throw his fit and run around outside, away from the other restaurant patrons. The fit wound down and I took him back inside, just in time for the edamame. TJ grabbed the edamame and ate the entire fibrous thing. He’s eaten those many times before and knows what to do. Not sure why he picked tonight eat the whole thing, but…. whatever. He seemed happy again. As Dave remarked, “Yay, fiber!”
The table on the other side of us looked to be college students. Who were drinking a lot of sake. TJ, who will tease and flirt with anything that moves started making faces at them and sticking out his tongue, which evolved into spit-showering raspberries. The drunk college students started encouraging it and imitating him. I closed my eyes in complete irritation. The only way to fix the fantastic mess is to move him to the other chair. So I switched seats with him. I took away his source of fun and so…. cue up another fit.
I grabbed him and as I ran out the door, I yelled back at Dave, “Call me in when the sushi comes!”
Here we go again. I let him hop up and down and rage over his lost entertainment. I turned around and there was Josh grinning at me. And Sam. Cool. All three of them. At least they distracted TJ. They all ran up and down the strip mall sidewalk. They’d already had a full day that involved baseball games, a baseball clinic and a fall-league baseball game that night. How could they possibly have enough energy to keep going? In case you’re wondering, I ask myself this same question at least three times a day. Still haven’t found the answer. When I do, I’ll be rich and living on an island I bought somewhere in the South Pacific because I will have bottled up this energy and made my millions.
While making sure the boys stayed off the street, I saw through the glass that the server had brought the sushi. I herded the boys back inside thinking that maybe the actual food would make things better. *Side note*Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
We all sat down. Except TJ. He started crawling up on the table and in the process, knocked over his water. By now, Dave and I were both so irritated as we watched our expectations be crushed under the feet of three little boys. The water cleanup was easy but keeping TJ in one location was not. I handed out the little sushi plates and before anyone could start grabbing, I pre-empted, “Wait. WAIT. Mommy will hand out the sushi to everyone. Do NOT do it yourself.”
I served everyone individually. Josh piped up, “I NEED A FORK!”
“That’s what the chopsticks are for, honey. Here, let us help you learn.” So both Dave and I took turns trying to unsuccessfully teach the two older boys how to hold chopsticks. While preoccupied, I glanced over at TJ who had taken the entire piece of sushi and crammed it into his mouth with one hand. I went slack-jawed and was a little impressed. He raised up his hands like he had just made a field goal and I realized he was trying to tell me he needed to wash his hands.
So off we go to the restroom. Because he was irritated his hands were dirty. Little sushi filcher.
You know how much eating Dave and I were doing, right? Zero. Maybe a bite crammed in here and there, but that’s about it. TJ repeated the “shove the sushi in my mouth” routine about three more times and at that was three more trips to the bathroom. TJ gave me the “all done” sign and I grabbed him and took him outside.
I was fuming. I was hungry. I was just done with being a mother and taking care of all of the babies. When we got outside, TJ and I were greeted by some fireworks… likely from a nearby resort. It was enchanting and he and I had a moment where I held him and he just delighted in naming all of the colors in the fireworks, then laughing and clapping at the finale. A beautiful moment from God. Had I had a “perfect” child who sat still through dinner, we wouldn’t be out watching such beauty. The irony was also not lost on me that the little firework I held in my arms burned brighter and hotter than any show the sky had ever seen and he made its colors positively pastel in comparison. After we were sure it was over, TJ and I went back inside the restaurant.
I came outside with the leftovers and got in the pathfinder. Still ever hopeful I said, “Well, that went somewhere within the real of ‘OK,’ didn’t it? Dave, being the more realistic of us both in the moment said, “No. No it did not. Not even close.”
We sat down at the table and TJ started to try to articulated what we had just seen. “Guys!,” I looked at Josh and Sam, “TJ and I just saw some cool fireworks outside!” Immediately, Sam burst into tears. Like, ugly sobbing tears. “MOMMY I WANT TO SEE FIREWORKS!!!” Ohmygosh. Didn’t see that one coming. I dropped TJ, tried to shush Sam and Sam just got louder and wailed. I grabbed him and ran outside. TJ and Josh followed. Now, of course, all three were over this so-called dinner experiment. When Sam recovered from the trauma of me ruining his life by not getting him to see the fireworks, he and the others started in on a fabulous game of hide-and-seek. On the sidewalk. This went on for 10 minutes.
I poked my head in and motioned Dave outside. “Your turn!” Dave scarfed down a few more bites and ran outside to manage the horde.
Bliss. Blessed silence. No one at the table except me. I ate slowly and deliberately, relishing the taste of the salty soy sauce, the fire of the wasabi and the delicate beauty and flavors of the sushi. For five fantastic minutes, I forgot about the ridiculous up and down and back and forth that just occurred.
After a few minutes, I stepped outside and looked at Dave, “OK, I’ll assume command. Go finish.” Just seconds after he went inside both Sam and TJ whined, “I have to go to the potty!!” So I let them inside to use the bathroom. When back outside, they all three resumed their game of wild racing and hide and seek. I again patrolled to make sure no one ran into the street. Inside, Dave paid for our dinner and poked his head outside and said, “I’ll get the boys in the car. You box up the rest of what’s left.”
I came outside with the leftovers and got in the pathfinder. Still ever hopeful I said, “Well, that went somewhere within the real of ‘OK,’ didn’t it?
Dave, being the more realistic of us both in the moment said, “No. No it did not. Not even close.”
There you have it. Tonight wasn’t really funny. It was hard. We did it to ourselves. And yet, I had to record every detail because one day… one day…. it will be hilarious. When our backs don’t ache as much and we can read a menu without interruption. …Who am I kidding? By the time this is funny, our backs will be aching because we’re OLD and we’ll still be interrupted in reading a menu by having to take out our reading glasses. But it will be funny. One day. Just not today.
But at least one little boy will have memories of fireworks on a random Saturday night. And two other little boys will be in therapy years later for feeling excluded. And somehow, I’m responsible for both. And that… is pretty funny. Having found my twinkle again, I will kiss those little darlings goodnight and see what tomorrow holds.
*This post is dedicated to Tracee Williams who recently took 3 boys to Disney Land. She too was hopeful. And it sounded about as magical as sushi on a Saturday night. I bet she saw some fireworks too.