For When We Complicate the Uncomplicated
Last week, the witching hour was at an all-time Code Terrible. I contemplated driving away and leaving the boys to fend for themselves because I just couldn't take it anymore.
But I took a breath, ate another brownie from the freezer, and decided that a less illegal approach was preferable. Solution? I was phoning it in, and we were going out to dinner. Because I like to take my cranky children to a restaurant and ruin the dining experience of everyone else.
We all loaded up and drove to a local diner, my mind filled with visions of mashed potato mountains and fried okra rainbows. I knew the outing would be a winner because the diner has fries, i.e. The Perfect Food according to my vitamin-deficient children. We found a table as far away from everyone else as we could (we're not monsters) and settled in, along with half a dozen toy trains that knocked over the salt shaker so many times it should've been on a bungee.
We needed seven seconds to decide what to order, so when the waitress joined us, we were alert, like deer in the winter, heads up, eyes darting, and starving. Then she said, "Hey, folks! First, let me tell you what we don't have."
It doesn't matter. Restaurants don't run out of French fries.
"We're out of fried chicken [cool], chipped beef [ew], chicken salad [no problem], and... French fries."
We sat in stunned silence as my heart broke and my mouth couldn't move due to shock, not to mention a disturbing absence of mashed potatoes. I stared at my husband, the reality of yet another dinner at Chick-fil-A or McDonald's setting in, like a depressing fast food fog trying to destroy my soul.
Who runs out of French fries?! I screamed inside. That's the lifeblood of America! You're destroying a family, not to mention a country by your lack of proper food ordering skills!!! I prepared myself for the forthcoming emotional breakdown.
Then the six year-old says, "Could I have chocolate chip pancakes instead?"
You know when you were a teenager and you were watching a movie with your friends and a sex scene came on the TV at the very moment your dad walked in and nobody moved a muscle hoping that he wouldn't notice anything unusual?
Yeah, that's what happened. We barely drew breath, trying not to draw attention to what just happened, and robotically said, "Sure, Sam. You can have pancakes beep boop boop." Then I leaned over to the little one, wondering if a miracle was possible a second time.
In my best caffeinated princess voice, I said, "Hey, Ben? They're out of French fries! Isn't that silly? Would you like bashed tomatoes instead?" (Yes, he calls mashed potatoes "bashed tomatoes," and if you ever try and correct him, I will cut you.)
Do you ever assume the worst? That if a restaurant is out of French fries you'll just have to go somewhere else? Or if you don't get your Most Important Tasks done by the end of the day that you're a terrible human person? Or if you say that hard thing to your mom after all these years that your relationship will fall apart?
And then the kids calmly choose other foods, your identity is still complete even though your list is not, and your mom hears you and things actually get better.
Sure, life is complicated. But sometimes we make it complicated. We're terrible fortune tellers, thinking we know everything even though we do NOT. As I sat at that sticky diner table, enjoying Food Not Made By Me Amen, I remembered how little I know. That sometimes I'm even wrong. I know, right? It took French Frymageddon to remind me of my own humanity and that things aren't as complicated as I often make them.
I say Monday is a good day to embrace being wrong and to let go of making things complicated. Let's all just chillax. Join me?