I scooped up as many pieces of crayon shrapnel as I could find on the floor, plunked them on the table and grabbed our son Evan out of his highchair, which he had converted into a podium for addressing our fellow patrons with his high-decibel State of the Toddler address. The state of the toddler at that moment was strong, red-faced and extraordinarily loud.
Fortunately, we always pay our checks as soon as the food comes, in preparation for the likely eventuality that we’ll have to flee the premises.
“Uppie!” Evan yelped as he pushed off my chest. To him, “uppie” can mean either pick me up or put me down, and when he means the latter, he usually says it in the same way Mel Gibson said “Freedom!” at the end of Braveheart.
Evan struggled and squirmed, turning so that I ended up carrying him like a surfboard under one arm. I pondered if anyone had ever carried their toddler like a surfboard toward a restaurant exit after a pleasant dining experience, and decided it was unlikely.
As I turned to check on Kara, who was just finishing stuffing all of our failed distraction paraphernalia into the diaper bag, Evan saw one last opportunity to reach out to his constituents. “Bye bye!” he called out from under my armpit, waving to the assembled audience. Several people turned and smiled, probably because we were leaving.
In his defense, Evan couldn’t really be expected to be on his best behavior. We’d been visiting Cape Cod for three rainy days at that point, and our poor meteorological luck was taking its toll on all of us.
We’d been trying to make the best of it, riding bikes in the rain, walking down the beach in the rain, complaining about the rain in the rain, etc., but it’s tough to maintain your cheerfulness when Dracula has seen the sun more recently than you.
Rainy weather on vacation used to be relaxing, an excuse to read a book, see a few movies or spend some long meals lounging at new restaurants. After having a baby, though, you can forget about all of that, at least until the child reaches Gameboy-playing age. At that point, your kid becomes like a newborn without diapers, and you can just stick him in a corner and do whatever you want while he drools and stares blankly for hours on end.
The biggest challenge we faced during the week was deflecting the puddle-emitted tractor beams that latched on to Evan in every parking lot, pulling him helplessly into their watery maw. Actually, I’m pretty sure he went voluntarily. Amateur puddle jumpers experience puddles with only their feet, and Evan turned pro long ago. He doesn’t jump in puddles so much as sop them up.
By the end of the week, though, the clouds parted long enough for us to verify the sun’s continued existence, and the puddles dried up enough for Evan to turn his attention to the ocean, where he taught us that no matter how persistent you are, or how graciously you offer, seagulls won’t eat a pile of sand out of your hand.
Even though we might not have visited during the ideal week, in the end, our trip gave us the kind of family bonding you just can’t get at home. If we’d stayed home, we never would have stood at the edge of the sea, introducing our toddler to this amazing, infinite puddle, which he did his best to sop up.
You can carry Mike Todd like a surfboard at firstname.lastname@example.org.