Never Skip Lunch

by Brian Leaf
Originally Published: 

Yesterday I spent the night in a hotel in New Haven, Connecticut. It was bliss. And all I really did was get there at 9:00 pm, eat two small bags of chips, drink a can of club soda, flip TV channels, sleep through the night, wake up on my own when my body was ready, go back to sleep, get out of bed, do yoga, eat a very mediocre hotel breakfast, shower, and go to my book talk. This was heaven. Absolute paradise.

And I kept thinking, what if Gwen was here too? We could relax. And cuddle. Maybe even have sex if we could remember how. We might have to call the porter for tips. He could stand over us and give pointers. I’m fairly sure that porters have a lot of sex. Actually, I’m fairly sure that anyone without young children has a lot of sex.

The next day, I get home from my retreat to a total debacle. We start the day at a three-year-old’s birthday party. Gwen and I forget to make sure our two boys eat a proper lunch during the festivities. So when we got home, we set the boys at the kitchen table for a big snack. By now, though, they are beyond hungry and bursting with agitation and emotion. Powder kegs. Gwen checks our voice mail and finds that our babysitter has canceled. Gwen and I were supposed to have a date. Gwen is devastated.

We let the boys know that our babysitter, whom they adore, is not coming. Explosion. First Noah is screaming. This is too much for little Benji and so, like a domino, he, too, is beside himself. Gwen scoops up Benji. I sit with Noah. Between sobs he eats his tuna and settles down. So does Benji.

After lunch they play happily for twenty minutes. We watch each of them put on a puppet show. Then Gwen and I steal away to hatch a plan. We’ll head to a playground and then go out to dinner.

The playground is a lot of fun.

Then dinner. Our biggest mistake of the day. We decide to go to our date restaurant. It’ll be fun. They have amazing Belgian French fries (and duck gravy for dipping).

We park. We get seated. We order. Noah’s mac and cheese arrives. So does Benji’s shrimp. Benji sees Noah’s noodles and wants them. Noah does not want to give them up. He is a kid and does not say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’d like to share that.” Instead, he says, “Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!”

And of course this knocks over little Benji, who joins in on the chorus with absolute gusto. We are in a fancy restaurant. Noah and Benji are the only children there, and they are screaming at the top of their lungs. People are drinking $9 glasses of Shiraz and nano-brewed beers. I look across the table and Gwen is hiding under her napkin. Literally. As if it’s a large sombrero.

By the way, I forgot to mention that Gwen had left her sweater in the car, so as a shawl, draped casually over her shoulders, she is wearing a pair of Noah’s sweatpants from the diaper bag. She looks quite elegant in her sweatpants shawl and cloth napkin hat.

So Benji wants the mac and cheese. Noah screams and won’t share. I tell him to give Benji some noodles and I’ll order more. He acquiesces. I order more. Benji and Noah devour both portions. With a whirl of my arm, like a sailor in a bar, I order another round. “Keep ’em coming!”

Finally, the boys are done. Gwen has not touched her steak. I’ve finished my chicken but have no memory of eating it. We get the check. Including the tip, it’s the most expensive meal Gwen and I have ever eaten out. And we’re nauseated from the stress.

The moral of the story? Maybe sometimes it ain’t easy. Or perhaps Don’t skip lunch. That one’s probably true. At least it would have made my day a whole lot better.

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