"Are you kiddos ready for some Franky Furters, Muenster Melts, and Black Forest Bites?" the waiter cleverly pitched the finger friendly options at the start of Saturday’s lunch.
Two and a half year-old Max looked at three year-old Felix with fascination as he placed his German order for “Franky Furters.” It was this same amazement that I displayed when Angela perfectly lined the hot dog buns with mustard and sauerkraut amidst Max and Felix loudly cheering the theme song of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
The “Restaurant Scene” is an evolving production for us and every time we revisit the stage, no matter how well I’ve reviewed the script or prepped Max for his close-up on the lines of gratitude in Serbian or English, unpredictable elements arise that transform a light fare comedy into a discipline melodrama as I anxiously look forward to the next take. I recently started to speculate whether or not hovering over every detail has become my tragic flaw.
I’ve welcomed each of Max’s feeding milestones with excitement and a side of uneasiness. My MedelaBreast Pump was the most anticipated gift on myBaby Registry but after my three-hour tutorial with the lactation specialist, I went into childbirth with fears of a delayed or indefinitely postponed milk arrival. Learning to nurse in a crowded space never felt rehearsed enough, especially during take-offs and landings on an airplane as I looked across the aisle at the mom doing so with her hands free to safely fasten her other child’s seat belt. It seemed as if the very basic concept of feeding was made even more difficult by trying to give my best impersonation of effortless.
Enter solids. Now that Max has secured his new role with table food, I realize that my biggest critic is no longer the crowd but my very own protagonist, who though miniature in size convincingly delivers bravado with his multilingual and wide range use of the word “no.” He craftily offers opposition to bath time, nap time and unsweetened snacks with the words "ne", "neću", "nema" and recently with the start of preschool, a most enforced "no," accompanied by a negating head shake.
Saturday’s lunch was full of careless spills and hysterical outbursts. Throughout the lunch, I frantically wiped and cringed, while Angela demonstrated the German favored “free range parenting,” placing independence and responsibility on her son as they each separately enjoyed their meals and she revealed not even the least amount of distress. Then somewhere in between coloring with the crayons and tracing the map to the treasure chest, Max began his own improvisation by repeating Felix’s “nein” and retorting with his own vocabulary of negatives. He was comfortably engaged in what sounded like a simulated conversation with his German playmate Felix, allowing me to have an adult conversation of my own.
After the scene wrapped, Max and I returned home, joyful of our own somewhat victorious performance and inspired by the less controlled dining endeavor. There's no ham in hamburger nor is there sauce in sausage but the German recipe for parenting has a brilliant balance of less hovering by parent for the independent success of the child. Max and I only got a taste of it on Saturday but we'll surely return for the second act!