I ordered a hot drink for me and a milkshake for them to share. The generous waiter brought the milkshake in two cups, each topped with whipped cream and a strawberry. Monkey and Munchkin eagerly peeled their straws and started sipping their smoothies with joy. As we sat, Monkey--known for asking lots of questions, but not for revealing much about school--told me about soccer, what he did at school and said a few kids were teasing him on the bus. We talked about what he could do on the bus and I said I was glad he told me about being teased. He looked at me and, a bit surprised, asked, "You mean I should tell you these things?" "Yes, of course! I can help you figure out what to do and step in if I have to." Monkey smiled and looked both happy and relieved to know that he had done the right thing.
As I sat in the booth, I thought that this is why we go to the diner. Sure, the kids may have ruined their appetites and dinner was going to start late, but I wasn't running around chopping onions or doing laundry, I was just sitting across from kids and listening. At home, I like to eat most meals with the kids, but lately, I've been slipping. Sometimes I'll wash the dishes or pick up toys while they eat. I'll check my phone or I'll dash to my room to get something and linger for a few minutes, enjoying the solitude. I like dancing with the kids and taking them to the playground. I love snuggling with them in the morning and tackling them in living room, but sometimes I don't focus on them like I should. I hear them talking, but don't fully listen.
And now, at this diner, I was listening very closely. It's funny how Monkey was surprised that he should tell me such things. He asks me a million questions, but doesn't ask me for advice, which is probably normal for a four-year-old. Here he was, in need of a little guidance, and thanks to a diner serving milkshakes, I was in a position to give it.
As I got ready to leave, I remembered that my father used to take my twin sister and me to a mall in Maine where we lived. One time when we were four years old, Papi took us to a booth, not unlike this one and bought us ice cream. "Don't tell Mami!" he said as we giggled at the table. My father has been gone almost 21 years, but 35 years later I still remember that ice cream, that booth and the way my dad secretly spoiled us. I hope that Monkey too, will remember our outings and, more importantly, know that he can tell me anything and I won't just hear him, I'll listen.