Feb. 3, 2015
Dear Future Stella,
I really hope you like trying new foods and the experience of dining at great restaurants. You currently are not a foodie (despite our constant attempts), BUT you behave better at restaurants than most adults and you are an excellent tipper. At age 4, you have been to countless restaurants and its one of our favorite ways to bond with you. Your dad takes you to Tacolicious every single Friday. He started doing this when you were less than 2. It’s hard to predict how long this tradition will go on for but I’m praying it continues long enough for Future Stella to have fond memories of this ritual. It began as a reward for not crying at swimming lessons and quickly became a weekly must. It started as just eating a cheese quesadilla and coloring with Dad and has evolved into a regular guest list of Dad’s friends and making gourmet kid burritos with filet mignon, rice and beans. Your table is always waiting for you, the entire staff knows you and we have endless photos of you here having the time of your life. The only thing missing is me! I am always at work and I genuinely feel left out of this giant part of your childhood.
In an effort to create my own special ritual with you, we set out on Chestnut street last night with the dogs to find something we could do that would rival your cherished Tacolicious Fridays with Dad. You have the leash of both dogs and we set off towards our neighborhood street filled with shops and restaurants. You know exactly where you are going. Since we have the dogs I explain that we need to find a place with outside seating. You immediately suggest Tacolicious. Although they do have tables outside I tell you that I want to do something different. Something special for just the two of us. You suggest it would be silly to have dessert before dinner and it could be our secret from Daddy. I liked this idea because it reminded me of my own childhood when my dad would pull me out of school for “dentist appointments” but once I got in the car he told me we were going to get ice cream instead. It was our little secret. We decided on Delarosa because we could sit outside, they served dessert and they served wine so it was a triple win.
After checking out the menu I suggest getting the chocolate molten cake. You said “No thank you, I want a cookie or a cupcake that’s like the Susie Cakes ones.” This hits a nerve because Susie Cakes is where you go with Daddy after Tacolicious on Fridays. I explain that this isn’t Susie Cakes and they don’t have cupcakes or cookies but we could get another treat that is just as yummy. Again, I aggressively push for the chocolate cake. I begin to sell you on the fact that it’s just like a cupcake. You don’t really sound convinced and say that you don’t think you will like it. I sort of panic because I already ordered a glass of wine and our ritual was already going downhill fast. The waitress comes over and I order the chocolate cake. You make this scowl on your face and begin to play with our new puppy Gail who is excitedly sitting on your lap. I attempt to make conversation but you are busy wrapping Gail in your napkin and pretending she is a burrito.
The chocolate cake arrives and you immediately announce that you don’t like it. You have not even tried it. Right about now is where my parenting/personal life choices begin to get questionable. I start to negotiate with you by saying things like, “Just try one bite. I won’t ask you anymore if you just try it.” You try it. You say you don’t like it. It’s chocolate cake, there is no way you really don’t like it. I still have a full glass of wine. I then up the ante.
“Ok Stella, listen, if you finish that cake then I will get you Susie Cakes on the way home.” In my brain this is happening, “Shelby, what the fuck? In what chapter of any parenting book does it suggest bribing your 4 year old with dessert if she finishes her first course of dessert?”
You consider the new offer. You say, “Do I get to have a cupcake, cookie, or whoopie pie?”
I respond, “Anything you want.” I take a sip of wine and my mind is going nuts with things like, “Good one. Anything? She has not even had dinner yet. Also, even if you get away with it this week, what’s your plan next week for your little ritual, you idiot.”
I look over and you are holding your nose and trying desperately to get down this chocolate cake. You are not having fun. I suggest helping you eat it. My brain lashes out some final blows, “Just what you need, chocolate cake. Remind me, did you workout today? Because I have checked the memory record and I don’t seem to have that on file? Of course I could have had a concussion or a brief episode of amnesia….”
I am now shoveling the cake in my face and you suggest I drink my wine faster so we can get to Susie Cakes. No problem there. You politely ask for the check and you tell me to get out my wallet. If I had a tail it would be so far between my legs I would have a wedgie.
We set out for Susie Cakes. I weigh which option would be better, A) sending you in with money while I stay outside with dogs or, B) having you stay outside with dogs and me going in to order. I quickly decide upon option A. The smallest bill I have is a 10. I send you in. I watch through the window as you order your cookie. The employees are all commenting on how cute you are and grown up but I can see them searching the area for an adult. I wave through the window. You get to the register and you hand the lady the ten dollar bill. I see her try and give you the change and to my horror you tell her to keep it. That’s a pretty nice tip on a $1.50 check. You come out filled with smiles and ask if you can eat the cookie on the way home. I tell you no because your hands are dirty from touching money. You don’t argue back which is a relief. We begin to walk and I see you just staring at the cookie in the bag. I stop and bend down and show you how you can hold the bag with your hands and have the cookie sticking out the top. I instruct you on how to take bites without touching it with your hands. You think this is pretty cool. Future Stella, have you ever wondered how different your life would have turned out if you never learned how to eat things out of bags not using your hands? I wish I knew who to thank for teaching me.
Future Stella, I love you! Current Stella, I can’t wait to find our ritual!
Stella and our puppy Gail at Delarosa waiting for the chocolate cake