The older I get, the more I understand the "empty nest syndrome" that couples experience. The car ride down was eerily quiet without the sounds of Cars 2 or Fruit Ninja blaring from the backseat, which is usually only slightly louder than me shouting, "CAN YOU TURN THAT THING DOWN?" The lack of giggles, questions or complaints created an awkward silence at first.
What did we talk about before? Because the only thing that I could think of was Drew pooping in the potty or Bailey's Social Studies project. And neither of those topics really say "romance", ya know?
Dressed to impress, we ordered steak and wine that's been aged for longer than I have. And let me tell you, not being the oldest one at the table was a well-deserved improvement.
We dined with no regard to Montessori school tuition or private softball lessons. Would you like an appetizer? Yes, I would. Another glass of wine, ma'am? Oh, that would be lovely. Thank you.
It felt like a costume party - except this time - I wasn't dressed up like a naughty nurse or a giant whoopee cushion. This time, I was disguised as someone who thought that dropping 250 bucks on dinner actually sounded like a good idea.
I scanned the restaurant and wondered how many other people were attending my costume party. If somebody would just turn off this lame elevator music and crank up some Whomp! There It Is!, then I could spot my peeps IN NO TIME FLAT. But instead, I became an amateur private detective trying to determine who there was "Brunello Cucinelli" and who there was "Tarjay".
The fauxs were pretty easy to spot. We smiled a little too big. We listened to the waiter a little too attentively. And we said "thank you" a little too politely when some hard-working college student wiped the bread crumbs off our table with a shoe-horn.
I guess this goes without saying, but if I wasn't a faux, then I could probably tell you what that bread crumb scooping shoe-horn is actually called.
Now - let's talk about the people taking pics with their iPhones for a minute, shall we? JUST WEAR A NEON SIGN, WHY DON'TCHA. Nobody who can afford this meal needs to take photos of themselves to remember it. You might as well fan out your food stamps like you're playing a hand of poker because that maneuver is called a royal flush.
The people who belonged there were equally easy to spot. Unattractive older men with skinny blonde wives who were half their age. Businessmen. Career Women. The only thing that smelled stronger than the jalapeno cheese grits was the smell of success.
Armani. Versace. Prada. Gucci. Dior. Cavalli.
Ahem. And then there was me. I think I was wearing Charlotte Russe. Maybe Kohl's.
I was instantly whipped back in time to a moment when a younger me was standing in my bathroom thinking, 'You know - maybe I won't go off the pill after all. Maybe I'll just live my life THIN and RICH and RELAXED. I'll enjoy summers in Europe, winters in the Caribbean and fancy dinners every night of the week.'
I blame it on the wine.
When we got back to my parents' house, Drew ran over to me like he was going for the gold in the 100-yard dash. I scooped him up and gave him a big kiss. He said, " I missed you, Mama. I looked for you everywhere, but I couldn't find you."
Now if that doesn't melt your heart, you need to ask somebody to check your pulse.
Bailey ran over to Brian and gave him a big hug. She said, "Yeah. Drew missed you guys, but me, Granna and Papa kept him happy." Brian told her what a good big sister she was.
After thanking my parents for babysitting, we pulled out of their driveway with Cars 2 and Fruit Ninja blaring as loud as they possibly could. But this time, it sounded just as beautiful as elevator music. Or in my case, Whomp! There It Is!
I turned my head just to watch them for a minute. Drew didn't look up from the DVD player and Bailey didn't look up from the iPod Touch, but in a calm, monotone voice, I heard them say to each other,
Hey, Bay. Did you burp?
No, Drew. That was you.
It was me. Was it funny?
Yeah, Drew. It was funny.
I'm not sure if tears filled my eyes from laughing so hard or if it was from the overwhelming love that I feel for those two knuckleheads, but this conversation about a burp brought more joy to my heart than an entire aged vineyard in Napa Valley.
And then I thought, THAT'S why we have children.
It's not because it's a easy job. It's certainly not because parenthood will keep you thin, rich and relaxed. It's because of a love that's bigger than us. It's because of a love that somebody's blog could never accurately describe in a few poetic words.
The love that we feel for our children is worth every single sacrifice that we make. And then some.
I wouldn't trade my family for all the overpriced Wednesday night dinners in the world. You can write that one down.