I want my baby back, baby back, baby back

Saturday night we met my family for dinner at Chili’s in Sandy, Utah, one of the more conservative patches of the Salt Lake Valley. I think it’s pretty funny that I just wrote that, “more conservative patches of the Salt Lake Valley,” as if people in one part of this place would suck George Bush’s cock harder than in other places. I apologize now, mother, for saying bush and cock since you dropped that hint on Saturday that you were still reading this site. We had dressed Leta in her Lowercase “Mommy wants a new president” Tee, risking drive-by shooting if not public hanging, and my mother said she had already seen that shirt, so she wasn’t too shocked by it. That of course took away all the fun I had planned for the evening as nothing is more fun than shocking my mother. Yes, I am still that juvenile. Plus, if your mom were the Avon World Sales Leader you would love to shock her, too.

I’ve aired my hatred for chain restaurants on this site before with a rant about the Olive Garden, but I should probably come clean and confess the small place I have in my heart for Chili’s: there is just something about their chips and salsa and willingness to bring two Diet Cokes at one time that make me forgive the aching heartburn that follows their meals. We were going to be arriving a little bit early to the dinner and Jon suggested we stop by a nearby bookstore to pass some time. I asked him why, and he said that he didn’t want to get there too early so that we would have to sit there waiting for everybody while eating chips and salsa. AND WHAT WOULD BE WRONG WITH THAT? I couldn’t follow his flawed logic and I ordered him to drive straight there.

This was Leta’s first family meal at a public restaurant where she was sitting in a high chair all by herself. Before we would hold her in our lap and eat merrily as she was too young to reach out and grab for things. I remember having lunch with a friend and her two sons, ages three and one, when Leta was just three months old. Leta dozed in the car seat for the entire lunch while my friend’s sons talked and GRABBED things and moved their bodies about in wholly acrobatic ways. I remember feeling horrified, that one day my baby would be big enough to shoot her arm across a table and grab something potentially spillable or just plain NOT HERS.

Of course, time passes and nightmares do come true.

Leta spent the entire evening grabbing her cousin Noah’s things: his chips, his crayons, his sippy cup. My sister’s twins, two of the most violent toddlers on earth sat reverently in their high chairs staring in wonder as their baby cousin Leta pounded the table with her fists and grabbed everything within her wingspan. (The only reason I knew it was Noah and not Joshua was because she didn’t dress them alike – very uncommon – and she identified them both when they arrived. Plus, last week I had gone to my sister’s house, and when I pulled into her driveway I saw Noah climbing the mailbox in nothing but an under-sized tee-shirt – no pants and no underwear – and realized that he is the one who has the most self-inflicted bruises).

Noah would occasionally turn to his mother and say very quietly, “She’s taking my chips.” Or “She took my cup.” I was watching her like a hawk, but she timed her illegal grabs right as I turned to take a chip and dip it into salsa. I had to clear a two-foot area around her high chair so that she wouldn’t knock the table over with her banging, and that’s when the public squawking started. Loud, piercing, bird squawks in between holding her breath and making her face red – I swear to God she was doing this, THROWING A PUBLIC TANTRUM. THIS ISN’T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN FOR ANOTHER YEAR! I want my money back.

When you’re childless and young and hopeful you have this idea of what your children are going to be like, and you make mental notes when you see other kids in public. You say to yourself, “My kid will be cute like that,“ or “My kid won’t ever throw a tantrum in public like that little demon.” I had always envisioned a sweet little princess who looked just like me sitting quietly in a high chair, her pressed velvet petticoat creased perfectly as she sat and waited to be handed things in a timely manner. And then you grow up and have kids and realize that YOU HAVE NO SAY, and the only clean thing she can wear is that over-sized red shirt that she will smear pears on before you leave the house, and that demon you once witnessed looks more and more human in hindsight.