“We’re going to a fabulous place for lunch. It has salads, sandwiches, bagels, soups…and most importantly, desserts. Panera Bread. Yum.” I practically drooled all over myself as I drove.
“Are there princesses?” Natalie asked from the backseat.
Did she not hear me? Salads. Sandwiches. Bagels. Soups. DESSERTS! “Um, no. But there is this delicious flower sugar cookie.”
Natalie didn’t seem impressed. Oh well. She would be when we got there.
I was taking her on a date. A Mommy/Daughter date. I think it’s important to take kids out one on one. I’ve done this with my son several times. I have not written about it because my son behaves like a normal human being. And also, he’s pretty quiet.
Natalie? Is not quiet.
We pulled up at Panera Bread and Natalie went, “What is this again?”
I led her inside and explained her choices. Natalie does not make choices quickly. She mulls them over slowly, as though it were an extremely important decision. She tapped her chin and tossed her head from side to side like a valley girl.
“Hmm…I like peanut butter and jelly. I like ham. But. I like macaroni and cheese.”
I stared at the display of the flower sugar cookies. Yum. I wanted one. I missed the days where I’d pop into Panera Bread while Natalie was in school. I didn’t have to wait. I could march up to the counter and go, “One cookie, please.”
“Do I want a sandwich? Or macaroni and cheese?” Natalie held her hands out, palms upward.
It took her ten minutes to figure out that she wanted macaroni and cheese. By then I was salivating all over the place. We ordered our food and got our drinks (I did not give her a choice. Instead I went, “Look, there’s sweet tea. You love sweet tea. Drink the sweet tea.”) Our food arrived and we began to eat.
I got the fuji apple salad and the summer corn chowder soup. Delish! And, yes, my flower cookie.
Natalie dug into her food. Sort of. She’s also the slowest eater ever. I thought my 92 year old grandma ate slowly. Natalie would take a bite, chew thoughtfully, and then take a sip of tea.
By the time I was done, she had barely made a dent in her food. She also eats like a bird. She’ll peck, peck, peck, take a break, and then return to the food.
I couldn’t wait any longer to have my cookie. I took a bite. Holy crap YUM! When Natalie saw how much fun I was having with my baked good, she had to have hers too. I assumed she’d turn into Cookie Monster the second she took a nibble—I mean, it takes all my restraint not to turn into Cookie Monster because the cookie is seriously amazing—but no, she chewed and set her cookie down.
I engaged her in conversation as we ate.
“So, what’s new with life?”
“I’m going to Disney and meeting princesses in June!”
“How was it being in Kindergarten?”
“Fun! I’m going to miss the magic carpet.”
“Why do you like upsetting me?”
“Your face gets all red and then I can see your nose hairs!”
Natalie pecked at her food for awhile longer and then announced she was done. She barely ate a thing and MOST OF HER FLOWER COOKIE REMAINED! It took all my might not to reach over and swipe it.
I packaged her food up because as I said, she’d eat it later. Eventually.
We headed to Pet Smart next, because Natalie loves looking at all the living things they sell. We stared at fish and cats and hamsters.
This is where the tears started.
Natalie fell in love with a gray hamster. I say love because she actually said, “I love him so much!” Well, she loves everything so much. Me, Daddy, her car seat, her toys…she throws the word around easily (and dramatically.)
“I’ll take care of him!” she vowed.
“It’s another living thing I have to keep alive,” I answered. “Max the Cat would EAT him.”
“He wouldn’t! I’d keep Ray safe!”
“His name is Ray because he’s a ray of sunshine in my life!”
I rubbed my temples. I was not in the mood for this. Some parents might have given in. I mean, yes, Ray was cute. But I pictured The Bad Things That Could Happen. And they were the following:
--Ray would become a snack for Max
--Natalie would try and sleep with Ray because he was “so cute” and she’d either crush him to death or Ray would escape. We’d find his carcass months later. This would make Natalie cry hysterically. “RAY! RAY, I LOVED YOU!” I could picture her shouting.
--Natalie would take Ray out of his cage constantly. She doesn’t always know her strength, much like Lennie from Of Mice and Men. She’d squeeze the life out of him on accident.
--Ray would get loose and not die. I’d hear him running around at night and this would freak me out. I’d think, “Ew, what if he climbed into my bed?”
So yeah. No hamster. Natalie was crushed.
She eventually got over it and when we got home, she offered me a piece of her flower cookie.
“I know you like it,” she said and gave me a hug. (Probably her polite way of saying, “I witnessed you eating your cookie like a pig.”)
In the end, I had a lovely date with my girl.
(And no, I have not changed my mind about the hamster. No more living things in this house!)