I had a rare Tuesday night free and was able to take advantage of one of the various "kids eat free" nights at our local Chick-Fil-A. To top it off, it was a special event night, celebrating Star Wars with Wii Lego Star Wars, crafts, and even Star Wars characters at this location. My boys were ecstatic about the thought of seeing some Star Wars characters.
The whole family took a trek to Toys R Us first to pick up the new release of "Lady and the Tramp" on Blu Ray. We managed to get all that we bought for under $5 and they gave us a $5 gift card. So, we pretty much broke even. Afterwards, we drove to Chick-Fil-A and didn't realize that kids eat free. So, with the help of a gift card that someone had given us, we spent a whopping $3 for our dinner and even got the receipt with the online survey for a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Again, we pretty much broke even.
Somehow we managed to have had the worst possible timing for our arrival at the restaurant. It seemed that everyone else decided that it would be a good time to get there as well. The line was to the door and there were no tables available. We have always appreciated Chick-Fil-A for the kindness and courteousness of their employees, and tonight was no exception. One of the women working there saw my wife with our daughter in the infant carrier as well as the 2 boys and started looking for a table for us. She found one and motioned to my wife while she cleaned it off for us.
When we were finally able to sit down and enjoy our food, a woman who we had passed a few times earlier while searching for a table saw us sitting and said, "Wow! You're persistent!" My wife looked at me and said, "When we go out to dinner, we expect to find a seat," to which I replied with laughter. I smiled and said, "Funny how that term "out to dinner" changes depending on your situation." We both had a good laugh.
I've been reminiscing a lot about life before kids lately. I haven't been doing it in a "those were the days" kind of way, just in reflection. It's very funny how perspectives change as your life changes. Traveling on airplanes prior to kids usually involves hoping and praying that you don't get stuck next to the family with the screaming kids. Traveling on planes after kids usually involves hoping and praying that your kids aren't the screaming kids that other travelers get stuck sitting next to. Eating in restaurants prior to kids means longing for a nice quiet place to gaze into each others' eyes, free of any screaming kids. Depending on the scenario, eating in restaurants prior to kids can mean anything from hoping that nothing falls on the floor, and if it does, that it isn't eaten. It could mean hoping your kids aren't the loudest ones in the restaurant or even, if the kids are at home with a sitter, actually having a conversation with your spouse that doesn't involve crayons, diapers, poop, or any one of a variety of other kid-related topics.
As I sat to enjoy my meal, fast food or not, I fully appreciated the experience that I was having at that moment. These moments are the moments that don't last forever, they need to be seized because they become fewer and further between as kids get older. For all the chaos that we experienced, I wouldn't change a thing. My kids loved it, at least the older two did.
As we drove home and heard our 5 year old lament the absence of Chewbacca, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker, we also heard that the Stormtrooper was pretty nice to both of my sons, causing a little confusion as to whose side they were really on anyway.
Yes, tomorrow they'll wake up, want to play Wii Lego Star Wars, color Boba Fett and Darth Vader, and even make a paper lightsaber from materials around the house. And that's fine with me. It wasn't hiking a mountain, walking through a park, going to a museum, or anything spectacular, but it meant a lot to my kids that we all shared this together, and that's good enough for me. At some point, we hope to go for a hike on a mountain, a walk through a park, a tour of a museum, or do some other spectacular thing. in the meantime, we'll settle for the simple moments that are thrown our way, taking advantage of them when we can, making the most of the opportunities before they're gone.
After all, unless my name is Marty McFly, I'm never going to experience this day again. So I might as well make the most of it.