Love is patient.
I had a super snarky post ready to go today about gender roles and how ridiculous Valentine’s Day is. But last night made me rethink things.
It was five o’clock on a Friday and my neighbor Steve was over with his son Miles, Will’s BFF. We decided what a brilliant idea it would be to take the kids to The Coupe for an early dinner, beat the late crowd, have a nice happy hour. The place is set up to accommodate kids. They have a kids menu you can color on, a whole barrel full of communal toys, high chairs, etc. It’s a fancied up diner with a cozy ambiance and a pretty good beer menu. So Steve’s wife Maura joined us and we sat at a table with the four adults and three kids. It started out fine other than that I really didn’t get to catch up with Maura as I’d hoped to. Despite us bringing books, the Leap pad and our iPhones, the boys had to have adult attention. She was lucky enough to sit on their side, so most of her time was spent reading books to them and helping them color.
Our beers were served promptly and we cheersed to life and being out of the house on a Friday. My porter was delicious.
Ava was doing great for awhile. I had her in our own booster seat chair with an attachable tray which is so much easier than the restaurant high chairs. I had brought goldfish, squeezy apple sauce, a sippy cup and a few books from the communal barrel. I was prepared. We ordered mac ‘n cheese and chicken nuggets for the boys to split, and my plan was for Ava to share my meal, roasted chicken, carrots and sugar snap peas. But things did not go as planned.
We ordered our food.
Ava, who had been entertaining herself with the straw inside her to-go cup of water, squeezed it too hard and the top snapped off as it fell to the ground. Their bath time book Water Water Everywhere flew through my mind as the pool grew below us and I wondered why they felt it necessary to give kids that much water. Our poor waitress swiftly got a mop, sopped it up and crawled under our table with a towel to get the rest. Then someone put up one of those big yellow caution signs right next to our table. Appropriate.
We all laughed about it. The kids were getting a little antsy, but their food arrived and it tied them over for awhile.
An hour passes. No food for the adults and the kids food is devoured. When the kids have already eaten and you have to continue sitting at the table for the unforeseeable future, you know you are in trouble. The boys are dinging silverware, crawling up and down under the table onto the dirty floor, jumping up in the booth to make faces to people on the other side. People are staring, either feeling sorry for us or wondering why the hell we brought kids out to dinner.
Ava starts crying. And continues. Finally, after trying more books, the Leap Pad, and my iPhone despite the mac and cheese all over her tray, I give up and pull her into my lap. Within seconds of the server putting down my second porter, which I really really needed, she spills it. All over the floor, the table, my knees.
John scrambles to help clean up the table while the server comes again and gets on her knees to wipe the floor. I catch eyes with Maura, Steve, John…. Ava is still crying, loud now, kicking and struggling and I feel eyes of everyone in the restaurant on me. And they are all surely just feeling sorry for me now. Suddenly I can’t laugh at it. A lump forms in my throat and I try not to let the tears roll down, but they do of course. So to follow, my face burns bright red and I just keep my eyes down.
John announces he will take Ava outside. It’s in the teens outside, but I let him deal with it while I concentrate on sipping my beer, which has kindly been replaced, and eating my food, which has finally, after an hour and a half, arrived. Steve and Maura were so sweet and understanding. I’m sure thinking to themselves, thank god we only have one.
Or, reminder to self, don’t go to dinner with the Arangurens.
John and I finished the night with Gone Girl and popcorn on the couch, but I couldn’t help feeling sad. It was just one of those nights when I couldn’t laugh at the ridiculousness of child rearing. Sometimes I feel like my patience is all used up.
I remember last year, when I was at my lowest point with Ava’s sleep issues (or lack thereof). It was the 8th month of waking up literally every two hours to feed her (she refused bottles), and I was running so thin on patience, I felt like I was going to lose it. My parents were in town and my Dad sat me down and told me about manning a hawk.
When he was young, he found two red-tailed hawks in the wild and took them in as his pets. He kept them, trained them, fed them. I’ve always thought this was pretty cool, but I had not heard the details of manning a hawk. He said part of the training ritual was to sit in a dark room with one lit candle all night long with the hawk sitting on your forearm. It couldn’t fly off. It had to learn to stay with its owner.
The relationship between the falconer and the hawk is not one of love, it is one of need. The bird will stick around as long as he knows his owner can provide for him. Once my Dad had the birds’ trust he would take them out hunting in the woods. They would perch on his arm, he’d shove them off into flight, and they would catch a squirrel or field mouse or whatever they could find, and bring it back to him. He would skin it and feed it to them.
I imagine my young father sitting all throughout the night in a candle lit room training a wild bird of prey. The patience required of that ritual, as well as the whole experience of being a falconer, must have been immense.
I am glad he told me that story because I’m at a time in my life where I need to exercise lots of patience. I love staying at home with my kids, and I would not trade that for the world. Right now Ava is going through serious separation anxiety and Will no longer naps. And he is being potty trained. The days are so much fun, but they can sometimes feel long. And often I spend all my patience on my kids and then end up snapping at John for no reason in the evening. Thinking of that candle lit room inspires me to dig deeper for patience. It is challenging. Patience truly is a labor of love.
Yes, Valentine’s Day is a stupid commercial holiday that is shoved down our throats. Yes, it is for suckers. Yes, I told John not to waste money on overpriced roses. All this was elaborated on in my other post. But here I am, on Valentine’s Day morning, writing about love. What can be so bad about that?
And how lucky I am to have, not one, but three Valentines. Patience will be my gift to all of them. My kids need me–are indeed needy on a daily basis–but unlike the hawk, they love me back. What a gift.