I pull out the plastic chair and comfortably ease my weight into the seat.
"Mommy, here. " Maeve says, handing me a fork and knife. Taking the maroon cloth napkin, she attempts to cover her plate.
"No babe, " I start. "It's a napkin. We put it on our lap. Look at mommy and Aunt Lynsay. Our napkins are on our laps too".
In just over two years of life, she has never been to a restaurant with cloth napkins. Their addition to the dining table causes a bit of confusion. Furrowing her brow, she focuses her attention from my lap to Lynsay's.
"Oh, Okay, mommy. I put it on my lap." she says, nodding in agreement.
"Mo, " I say. "Take the napkin from under your plate. It's not a place mat, it's actually a napkin. Put it on your lap like this."
"How about I do it like this?" she asks, placing the napkin on the arm of the plastic chair.
"Fine." Bry chimes in. "I think that's a great idea Mo".
Once upon a time, dinners out were leisurely affairs. We'd stroll out on a Friday or Saturday evening. Over glasses of wine, we'd sample some appetizers, savor entrees, and share desserts. Over a few hours, our night would be spent sharing stories, laughs, and each others company. Back then, it was the four of us: Lynsay, Steve, Bryan, & I at our favorite Italian restaurant, seafood joint, or just enjoying pizza and beer at the bar.
It was simple.
It was lazy.
It was fun.
And then Moira was born, and it all changed.
Yes, we did do a few dinners out with her in the infant car seat. Sitting at the outdoor table, they dined like normal while I hovered nearby. Instead of a leisurely pace, I shoveled food in frantically, anticipating the newborn cry all too familiar with a two month old. I couldn't really relax, as the thought of her crying bothering other diners made me jump with every moan and coo. I prayed she'd sleep, stay out cold in the seat while I feigned normal, and I hope she wouldn't need to nurse as I had yet to lose that modesty of nursing in public.
Things changed that summer of 2008 as we became first time parents. Not too soon later, Steve and Lynsay changed too. Leaving the confines of suburbia, they became real New Yorkers. Living in the City, in a small apartment, forgoing cars and grass for taxis, subways, and the crowds on the sidewalks.
Our paths diverged that year, and for the next few, it remained that way.
But today, we came full circle sitting outside, dining at a new Italian restaurant near our* new hometown.
Yes the collective "Our" as Steve and Lynsay could not keep away from the lure of suburbia, and moved into a home of their own only two blocks away from us.
Instead of a late night dinner, we're out at six. Once our party consistently was for four, but now it has grown with the addition of Moira, Maeve, and most recently Patrick, their ten week old. Our seven top around the table, glasses of wine interspersed with sippy cups of milk, an infant car seat situated between Steve and Lynsay, as Patrick quietly sucks on his pacifier, blissfully asleep.
"Can I see PJ?" Mo asks, focusing her gaze on the black car seat in the chair. "Him asleep?"
Lynsay responds, "Sure come on over. He's still sleeping and hopefully he will for some time."
Mo glances into the car seat, and Patrick offers a bit of pirate eye, looking up. Lynsay finds the pacifier, placing it in his mouth.
"You want to go to sleep Buddy" she coos.
That feeling, trying to coax my baby back to sleep, comes rushing back. Trying to sustain nap time, trying to find normalcy while everyone around goes on with their lives.
He falls back asleep as our table examine our menus. Placing our order, conversation flows easily, comfortably. Not soon later Patrick begins to squirm and cry.
Up she goes, the familiar bounce in her pace as she waltzes back and forth.
The appetizers come to the table.
Placing a mozzarella stick on their plates, I say, "Dig in".
But Mo and Maeve are both concerned, asking for Aunt Lynsay.
"She gonna miss eatin'. When she gonna come back?" Mo asks, while Maeve raises her arms in the universal sign for where are they?
"I promise Aunt Lyns will get some food." I say, "just after PJ gets his food, Aunt Lyns will get hers".
"Oh, okay mommy. She'll be back soon?" Mo asks, peeling off a bit of the breadcrumb out layer and placing it in her mouth.
"Yup, she'll be back soon". I promise.
Appetizers are finished, and a plate sits waiting.
Dinner is served, as her place remains empty.
"Don't wait" Steve says, "We don't know how long it's going to be".
Thunder and lightning begin, and we hurry to beat the impending rainstorm, just as Lynsay returns with a sleeping PJ in her arms. The steady cadence of rain hits the canvas rooftop, as now Maeve cries in my arms.
"The rain, mom. I no like the rain. It scary." she cries.
Pecking Lynsay on the cheek, I spit out my apology, and race to the car just before the downpour.
And with that, dinner is over.
Riding home in the rain, my heart goes out to Lynsay, as I can only imagine how she has categorized this evening.
A failure, I bet.
But Lyns, and every other new mom out there, you need know even with the impromptu feedings and then the abrupt endings, it is a little victory! Getting out of the house with a new baby is overwhelming and frankly each time sucks a little less.
I get it.
I lived it,
and Lynsay, and all other first time mamas,
it will get better.
But on the days like this, where you are out, and the baby starts fussing a bit. That moment where you think you have to do it all yourself, stop.
The next time, my advice is simple:
Pass the kid off to your husband to bounce first for a bit. When he can't calm the kid anymore, then it can be your turn. Until then, let him deal and enjoy your wine & appetizers.
It will get better.