My daughter thinks I’m embarrassing. After all, I’m the Dad and I don’t get all the newfangled things these kids do with their Roblox and Baby Sharks. I come from a simpler time of Fraggles and Flintsones. When I start waxing nostalgic or don’t understand what the new cool thing is, I can see that being a cause for embarrassment.
You know what, though? She’s embarrassing too. That’s right. I said it. Most times, she’s great. But any activity that involves sitting for long periods of time in public eventually brings out the insanity. Today’s adults spend less time forcing kids to wait on line at the bank or post office. What does that leave? Restaurants.
I can trace it all back to when she was around three and my wife returned from the coffee shop with a look of horror.
There was an Asian woman waiting on line while we were sitting.
So, Olivia pointed at her and shouted, “Look, Mommy! Mulan!”
For those who don’t know, Mulan is an Asian Disney Princess. It’s a story that makes you close your eyes out of pure cringe. Apparently, the woman didn’t hear or just pretended that she didn’t. Either way, it started a small debate in our house. Mulan is a princess. If a kid of a different ethnicity pointed to me and screamed, “Look! Prince Charming!” I wouldn’t be offended. Still, though, the whole scene was understandably mortifying, if not complimentary.
Moments like that are commonplace when you have children. My son, although non-verbal, still manages to give us some wide-eyed moments of public shock. To this day, my favorite took place at a Sushi restaurant.
Our waitress seemed frazzled from the start. She kept circling the table to check that everything was in place and seemed generally overwhelmed by her job. My little man, who was sitting quietly in his high chair, was going through his squeezable cheeks stage. Come to think of it, he still is.
While waiting for us to order, the waitress began to fidget around and settled her gaze on Lucas. She let out a slight laugh and lightly squeezed one of his cheeks. My wife shot me a look, which I totally understood. After all, you don’t really touch someone’s kid without asking. It wasn’t to the level where you say, “Hey. Hands off, lady”. But it still was a bit weird.
Before we could even think to say anything anyway, she bent at the knees and came face to face with my son. Their noses were just inches apart. She smiled and said, “Hello, there.”
And he sneezed all over her face.
Yes. That happened, and I was in the front row. I’m not talking about a tiny achoo either. I mean a full-blown Big Bad Wolf sneeze. I’ll never forget the shocked look on her sneeze covered face. My eyes bugged out so far that I thought they would pop out and fly across the table. We all offered meaningless apologies and she ran off to presumably quit her job.
Of course, these stories are from when my children were younger. As they’ve gotten older, trips to eateries aren’t like this anymore. No. Those memories are just memories. Today, they can be much worse.
We went out last week with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. I had the honor of sitting next to Olivia. From the moment we sat down to the moment we got up, she was completely whacked out. It was like dining with Andy Dick.
As they get older, the embarrassment is less about misunderstood social graces and more of a purposeful attempt to rile you up. It started small with her looking up at me and commenting about how much nose hair I have. When that failed to get a response, she began lobbing stern critiques at me.
You shouldn’t have your elbows on the table. It’s rude. I learned that on my Girl Scout trip.
My elbows aren’t on the table. It’s my forearms. See? I always make sure that I…
Sit up. Stop slouching. Be proper.
At this point, she contorted her face like an aristocrat and started “tsssk, tsssking” everything I did. When that didn’t get enough of a reaction, she started stabbing me with her bony little elbows. It’s her secret weapon.
Her attacks don’t hurt me. It’s those pointy, sharpened elbows from hell that drive me up a wall. At first, you think she’s just leaning. Then you realize she’s purposely trying to poke a hole through your body. So, in an attempt to stop her, I put my hand around her wrist.
I didn’t grab her wrist, mind you. Whenever I do this, I put my hand in an O shape and trap her arm inside. It’s like being in a human handcuff. She couldn’t get out, but there was no pressure on her at all…which is why she deserves an Oscar. Because, without feeling any pain whatsoever, she tilted her head back and began howling.
Owww! Ow! Ow! Oh! Ow!
My wife’s mother and sister, unfamiliar with this insanity, looked concerned. So, I showed them by pulling my hand up and spinning it around her wiggling arm. As it rotated, it became obvious that she was putting on a performance. They were convinced, but I could feel the stare of an ever-growing number of eyes in the dining area. I loudly reiterated what was happening.
I’m not even squeezing. Look. She can move.
She burst into laughter, but continued to crank out a few laugh-shrouded cries of pain. Two minutes later, she had moved on to annoying gibberish talk in my ear. It’s like living in an Adam Sandler movie.
My kids might be wonderful most of the time, but once there’s a waiter involved, all bets are off. With meals like this, I’m allowed to be an embarrassing dad whenever I want. I’ve earned it on the battlefields of T.G.I.Fridays and The California Pizza Kitchen. Let them call me lame. I’ve survived the bony elbows and lived to eat another day. No one can take that away from me.