The plate sizzles, oil popping, its not a plate but a large skillet, the steam is acting as an emergency smoke signal as the waiter carries it across the dining room. Heads turn, necks crane, a woman twists in her chair, everyone is wondering who ordered those fajitas, and where will they land?
“Fajitas,” he comments, “I hate fajitas.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, thinking to myself that you can’t really go wrong with fajitas. We are in our early twenties, it may be our second date, it may be our fifth, I know that I really like this guy and he’s not bad to look at either.
“You know, the spectacle of fajitas, where everyone turns and stares at the person in the restaurant that ordered the huge sizzling plate of food.” He states with obvious distaste in his voice.
I smile knowingly, “Like when you go to a restaurant for a birthday and the wait staff gathers around the table to sing Happy Birthday?”
“Exactly, definite fajitas,” he says.
“I don’t really like fajitas either,” I say blushing, thinking who is this handsome guy and why doesn’t he want to be the center of attention? In an instant a part of our family vernacular is born…
Fast forward ten years later, married, two beautiful daughters, a gorgeous basset hound, a handsome plot hound, and fajitas are still a part of our shared family language. But the question is, do we really hate fajitas? Fajitas are now served to us on a daily basis. For instance:
1) Walking our basset hound to the park on a hot summer day, her ears flapping, her neck flab swinging, her paws, she is a walking cartoon. Children and adults constantly asking if they can pet her, “No she doesn’t like people,” embarrassed I repeat the warning over and over. She is the definition of fajitas.
2) It’s Christmas, my oldest daughter is two, the mall is swarming with holiday shoppers, we each hold her hand tightly pushing our way through the crowds, my daughter is singing ‘Hakuna Matata’ at the top of her lungs, “IT MEANS NO WORRIES FOR THE REST OF YOUR DAYS.”
“This is fajitas,” I whisper to my blushing husband, we share a smile.
3) Spring break, a sunny afternoon at the park, mothers and children surround us from all sides. I’ve been in the house for a week with sick kids, but decide to stop by the park to get some fresh air. I’m dressed like I just got out of jail, dirty, oily, and ratty. I had no idea the park would be a social gathering, probably would have put on some nice jeans, or brushed my hair if I’d known. It’s almost nap time, we need to leave, I give the girls the mandatory count down, “two minutes … one more minute … okay time to go.”
My youngest starts screaming immediately, “No Mama, no mama, no mama,” building in momentum and intensity like an Italian Opera. I scoop her up in my arms.
My oldest whines, “My friends are still here, they’re still playing, why can’t I? I want to stay! I’m not going!” Then she turns her pleading into the ‘car alarm cry’, shriek, breath, shriek, breath, it sounds as if I’m stabbing her in the middle of the playground. I would scoop her up as well, but I only have two arms, a baby in one, a picnic blanket, and diaper bag in the other. How the hell am I going to make it to the car? My blood pressure rises, sweat makes my clothes stick in ways they shouldn’t, I am the spectacle.
Parenthood is all about fajitas, little people with their own thoughts and behaviors that no parenting strategy will ever fully control. They live without social filters as they learn societal norms and etiquette. If a friend chooses to play with someone else, tears stream down my oldest daughter’s face. I may feel the same way at happy hour, but I’ve learned to tone down my reaction. My youngest squeals in excitement when she sees a slide and throws herself on the floor screaming when its time to brush teeth. My daughters behave this way in the solitude of our home, or at a “Meet the Parent Picnic” in a room full of strangers I’d like to impress. Toddlers could care less whether their parents like to be the center of attention.
Toddlers (and basset hounds) are the definition of fajitas. I think we’ve got to learn to live with them. Mexican food is great, pour yourself a margarita and enjoy the ride.