My wife and I were enjoying a meal out the other night when we were unexpectedly treated to some free live entertainment. The show was supplied by a pair of young families with toddlers who were seated at a nearby table.
Few things are more amusing than watching parents try to manage toddlers. "Try" is the operative word here.
Toddlers are fearless and curious and have escape artist skills that would rival Houdini. Within seconds, toddlers can wiggle out of a highchair that has more straps than a parachute.
They then begin to wander about the restaurant, stopping to babble with random middle-aged couples who are dining at nearby tables.
A little blonde girl was seated in a highchair beside her daddy. The tot was honing her mastication techniques when something went down the wrong pipe. Her father quickly and expertly plucked the girl from her highchair and administered a whack between her shoulder blades.
A piece of waffle-cut French fry that was approximately the size of a Frisbee flew out of the girl's mouth. The daddy passed the squalling child to her mother and retrieved the offending chunk of spud from the floor.
The young father turned to us, grinned sheepishly and apologized. My wife and I replied that there was no need for an apology, that such things are par for the course with toddlers.
"Been there and done that and got the spit-up stained T-shirt," my wife reassured the young dad.
When a toddler controls you - if you think you can control a toddler, you are sadly mistaken - such conversations with complete strangers are a part of everyday life.
You find yourself saying things that you never would have expected to random passersby, statements like, "Sorry about that! Here, let me untangle that sticky lollipop from your hair," or "I'm so sorry about this. We're potty training Trevor and he didn't realize that these toilets are just display models."
Many years ago my parents, my wife, our two young sons and I went to a midwinter Dairy Herd Improvement Association meeting. We wanted to attend the meeting because it provided an excuse to get away from the farm. Plus, a free meal was involved.
The meeting was held in the poolside area of a local hotel. I don't know why the organizers chose this spot, but suspect that they hoped that the overpowering chlorine fumes would give us dairy farmers an olfactory vacation from the odors of our barns.
After the meal, as is common, there was a business meeting and a guest speaker. Neither of these interested our two boys, one of which was a toddler and the other aged three.
Like all kids, they were fascinated by water. Our youngest boy wiggled out of his mother's arms and bolted toward the deep end of the pool. His mom dashed after him and our older son followed, no doubt hoping to witness some drama.
He instead became the center of a drama.
The three-year-old was so focused on the goings-on that he walked right into the whirlpool. His alert mother, who was still struggling to corral the toddler, saw the boy plummet into the water.
She reached down into the whirlpool and swiftly and expertly hauled out the sputtering, sopping kid.
This led us to ponder a question we had never faced before: what do you do with a soaked boy in the middle of winter?
My wife buttonholed one of the housecleaning staff and asked if she could borrow some towels. The helpful cleaning ladies went one better. They invited my wife to join them in the hotel's laundry room where she could dry the lad's wet clothing.
The child's clothes were tossed into a dryer the size of a cement truck. My wife then sat in the tropic-like laundry room and chatted with the cleaning ladies while the clothes were dewatered.
She apologized for all the bother and the cleaning ladies replied that it was no bother at all, that they had enjoyed being entertained by our two little towheads.
The cleaning ladies asked my wife about our family. At one point, one of them interjected, "Your father-in-law is Leonard? Why, I've known him for years. He was quite the guy back in the day. Next time you see him, tell him Florence says, 'Hi.'"
My wife replied that she certainly would.
By the end of the meeting, the clothes were dry and our eldest son was none the worse for wear. In addition to being exciting, the experience caused me to hear Dad say something I never would have expected.
"Florence?" he sputtered as he blushed deeply, "Who is Florence?"
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.