Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wake up and smell the embarrassment

Note: This column appears in the 3/22 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/23 issue of the Peoria Times.

I’ve had some embarrassing moments as a parent. There was the time our then foster daughter spit on her teacher at daycare. There was the time recently when our own daughter pointed in the face of the male cashier at Safeway and asked, “What’s her name?” And of course there are the many times I’ve been forced to leave the premises—church, restaurant, bank, playground, grocery store, party, Nickelodeon-themed show, whatever—carrying said child like a football, her screams gradually fading into the distance for the curious onlookers.

This is certainly not to say our daughter is more prone to such outbursts than any other 2-year old. Well, okay—maybe a little more prone. Still, a more recent outburst proved especially embarrassing, not so much because of how it went down, but where, and what it said about us.

I’ve documented our affection for a particular coffee place that also, apparently, serves donuts. We don’t eat there nearly as often as we purchase coffee from there, but sometimes on a weekend morning, before a day of errands, we’ll stop in for a bite as a family. Such was the case not too long ago.

We had found a good breakfast item at this location for our daughter. It’s called a “wake-up wrap,” and it’s simply a small egg and cheese wrap. It’s the perfect size for her, and she eats it. How she goes about eating it is something I will never understand, and the proportion of the mess she leaves behind as it relates to the size of the actual item is completely illogical. But she eats it, and that’s all we can ask for.

This particular Saturday morning she was in rare form. I’m sure other parents can attest, but we can tell the second we get her in the morning what kind of day it’s going to be. Is she quiet and smiling? Sigh of relief. Are all her stuffed animals on the floor, the bed is soaking wet, she’s half-naked and screaming for milk like a prisoner of war? Time to buckle down.

So we’re having breakfast and she’s already giving us a hard time. She had torn her wake-up wrap apart, eaten the egg and left the wrap. We were getting ready to leave, so we asked her if she was done, and she grunted yes. I went to throw out what she had left and she flipped out. This is my favorite mood, by the way:

“Do you want that?”

“No.”

“Okay, I’ll throw/put it away.”

“NO I WANT IT!” (Said in horror movie voice, smoke coming out of the ears.)

And I mean she flipped out. The small place is packed and everybody is staring. My wife and I are scrambling to leave. She’s telling me, “Go, go, go!” like we’re on a military evacuation mission. I pick our daughter up to carry her out. As I’m heading for the door, she’s reaching for the table and screaming, “My wake-up wrap! MY WAKE-UP WRAP!”

I’m making a face to all the people I’m passing that says, “We really don’t come here that often. Honest!” They don’t buy it.

I was simultaneously proud that our daughter speaks well enough for her age to voice her angst at leaving behind a specific item on the Dunkin’ Donuts menu and embarrassed for the very same reason. I also felt the whole scene would have made for a great Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, and if anyone from their corporate headquarters is reading this, I will sign over the rights for a large fee. Or, coffee for life.

This did not, however, dissuade me from returning there, albeit at the drive-thru. The guy at the window handed me my coffee and, noticing the little girl in the back seat, waved and said hi. She waved back, smiled, and said hi, too. As I’m driving away, she says to me, “I love that man.” I said, “Me too, honey,” as I sipped my delicious coffee.

“Me too.”

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