Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: OK, so my brother and sister-in-law had an emergency and needed someone to watch the three kids. My partner and I volunteered. We are childless. We are also really gullible and maybe think we are more capable than we really are.
We decided to take them all out to dinner, just so someone else had to deal with the carnage afterward. They are great kids, a ton of fun, but they are 3-year-old twins and a 5-year-old sister. Things were loud. There were cries and lamentations and laughter. And screaming. This wasn’t Chez Ritz or anything, but I saw a look of angst on a younger man’s face that could have been me 20 years ago, and really I was doing the best I could but they gave one kid more fries than the other and it went downhill from there.
I would like to apologize for all the eye-rolls and harrumphing I did in my youth toward people with children. And maybe apologize to that young man, and even his poor girlfriend, who will probably have to leap higher hurdles to convince this man to procreate. Chaos.
I do not know how to deal with chaos except to leave a huge tip and be glad nobody died in the consuming of this meal. How do people do this and stay sane?
(1) They don’t.
(2) They issue a lot of retroactive apologies for youthful eye-rolling, if they’re honest with themselves.
(3) They skip even Chez OK and choose House of Mayhem (but still leave big tips).
(4) They have their kids one (usually) at a time starting on their 0th birthdays and tackle outings of gradually increasing ambition; they don’t start with two toddlers and a know-it-all-year-old at a place ignorant of fry equity that others choose for date nights.
It’s OK. You did a good thing, both in helping out your brother and sister-in-law and in sharing with us the play-by-play of your epiphany. Especially the latter.
Re: Retroactive Apologies I have three kids under 3 (including twins), all of whom just skidded into their naps after a rough morning. This made me cry — although, to be honest, I probably wasn’t far from tears to begin with. But on behalf of parents everywhere, thank you, and I accept your apology.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.