Monday, October 11, 2010

How could I forget parenting lesson number 1? Expect the unexpected

We experienced an Indian summer this weekend, with Fall temperatures that reached the mid eighties. There aren’t that many days like this left in the year, and we wanted to make the most of it. We walked around our neighborhood in search of a restaurant with outdoor seating for dinner. We walked by the new restaurant that we’ve been eager to try and hesitated. It wasn’t exactly a family restaurant. It’s the type of place that had one token high chair and booster seat, just in case, not because they really wanted your kids there. We figured it was not even six o’clock and the tables outside were still empty - we could probably manage a quick and painless dinner.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Well, at least in the beginning, it was apparent that Little Miss was not going to be that exemplary quiet kid in the corner. This place, not surprisingly, didn’t have a children’s menu, but it didn’t faze us as she often shared our plate with us. When the bread arrived, she wanted none of it. Gnawing on ice from her water glass was the only thing that amused her. When the soup, a Dutch version of split pea, arrived, I spotted the carrots and enticed her with a biteful of split pea and carrot. No dice. That came out as soon as it went into her mouth. We also had a chicken liver mousse appetizer, which she ate off a piece of bread like ice cream but after the third or fourth bite, she was done.

Not only would she not eat, she decided she wanted out of her high chair and became a little belligerent, much to our chagrin (and embarrassment). While this wasn’t normal behavior, it was also not the first. With her, or perhaps any toddler, there is no predicting how she’d behave that day. Despite a two-hour nap and a jaunt to the park to expend her energy, she was still a little restless. We had two more courses ahead of us, and I hated the thought of having to leave in the midst of of it.

When I glanced at the table next to us with their quiet kid enjoying the bits of food placed before him and I looked over at mine, I cringed a little. Who was this kid sitting at our table? Surely she can’t be my baby?

However, a small miracle happened. Our entrees arrived, and when she saw my bowl of mussels, she dove in. I showed her how I ate mine and she mimicked me, pulling the shell apart and digging the flesh out with relative ease. When it went into her mouth, I was poised and ready with a napkin, so sure she’d spit it out. But she never did, much to our utter amazement. 

In fact, she asked for another. And then another. And another. My almost-two-year-old probably ate half my bowl of mussels! They came with pomme frites (the skinnier version of fries accompanied by aoili rather than ketchup) and she of course dug into that too. The absence of ketchup didn’t bother her; the garlic mayonnaise worked just as well. My Guy and I couldn’t believe how quickly our evening turned around for us. The mussels and fries kept her busy, and we continued our meal in peace. Who woulda thunk? An evening saved by mussels?

Many parents make announcements or a note in the baby book when their kids learn their numbers, colors and alphabets, but those have gone with little fanfare in our house. Don’t get me wrong - we’re definitely proud, but for someone as passionate about food as I am, I’ve never been prouder than the moment I saw my little girl tear into her mussels with such fervor, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Well, I suppose it is natural; she is my baby after all.


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What have you been most surprised by with your child(ren)? What are the other parenting lessons of which your kids constantly remind you? Do your kids eat mussels too?