by Father Mark Goldasich
“Well, you’re either very brave . . . or you’re nuts!”
Last Sunday afternoon, I went to an after-baptism celebration. Our group of 22 arrived in several waves at the restaurant and was directed to two long tables. The kids immediately migrated to one; most of the adults to the other. I chose to sit at the kids’ table. “Grammy” Barbara, who sat to my left, made that comment to me at the beginning of this column.
The dining partner to my right was Jack, a 15-month-old twin. He looked spiffy in the bib that his mom put on him. The bib lasted about 4.3 seconds before it hit the floor. I picked it up, reattached the Velcro and turned to talk to “Grammy.” By the time I turned back around, the bib was gone, again on the floor. Since he wasn’t eating anything, I just folded the bib and popped it on the table.
A couple minutes later, the waitress came with kids’ menus, which featured pictures to color and a couple of crayons. I unwrapped Jack’s and handed him a blue one. He grinned, grabbed the crayon and started to make some lines on the picture. In the nanosecond it took to reach for my drink, I saw the crayon heading toward Jack’s mouth.
“Whoa, there, buddy,” I laughed, and redirected the crayon to the paper.
His mom Kristen said, “Yeah, Father, you’ve got to watch him because he likes to put everything in his mouth.”
I became super-vigilant, but risked a quick sip of water. By the time I turned back around, the blue crayon was gone! My eyes bugged out as I quickly scanned the table for some sign of it. Nothing.
I took a deep breath so as to not go into panic mode. I thought, “Holy cow! His mom gave me one task — watch that he doesn’t eat the crayon — and I couldn’t even handle that!” Since Jack didn’t seem to be in any distress, I calmly scanned the floor under his high chair. Oh, saints be praised! There was the crayon.
Smiling Jack soon became fussy Jack and then smiling Jack again — all in the space of 15 seconds — as his mom broke up some slices of cantaloupe for him. I chuckled as he sucked them in faster than a Hoover vacuum.
Next came carrot sticks for the older kids. While his big sister’s attention was diverted, Jack reached over to her plate and snagged one. Under Granny’s careful gaze, Jack gummed his very first carrot ever. Then he tried to take a couple of tiny, tentative bites. They missed his mouth, but did give him a jaunty carrot mustache and goatee.
When his main entrée of mac and cheese arrived, he went at it with gusto, using both hands. (This is a kid after my own heart.) Seeing him thus occupied, I thought it safe to bite into my own sandwich. Suddenly, though, there was a little chubby hand going after my potato chips. I discreetly spun my plate around so they were safely out of Jack’s reach. That was OK with him, because now he was happily scooping out the insides of my sandwich! Mom came to the rescue with some more mac and cheese for him.
You know, I was glad that I sat at the kids’ table. Jack was truly fun to watch and be around. Although those couple of hours exhausted me, they deepened my already huge respect for parents and their demanding vocation. I also realized for the umpteenth time that, as an only child and a celibate, I have no idea how much families deal with 24/7! How do parents do it, with multiple children even, day in and day out?
Maybe the best help I can provide is to pass on this bedtime prayer for parents:
Now I lay thee down to sleep/I beg you, kids: Don’t make me weep./Count sheep, dream deep, just do not wake/Before the sun, for goodness’ sake!