We’re not a traveling circus, but we play one in real life.
Before the twins were born, our typical Sunday tradition included going to church followed by going to Kerbey Lane Cafe, a local cafe, with our crew plus the grandparents, for breakfast. Once the twins were born, V and I would take the twins home while the girls went with Grandma and Grandpa to breakfast.
Last Sunday, the grandparents had a conference, so we decided to be brave1 and take all five of our kids out to eat by ourselves.
When you enter the cafe each carrying a carseat with a baby inside while using them as aircraft-style marshalling wands guiding your other three obviously young children into the cafe and toward the now-empty seats in the waiting area after the previous occupants saw the parade coming in and dove for cover… Well, that opens up a few more conversations.
Put on the brakes for a second. Everyone has been really nice, sweet, and kind to us. I jest a bit, but no one has been mean, a jerk, or any of other things you hear about in horror stories when talking to other parents of large families. 👨👩👧👧👧👶👶
While we were waiting for a table, the other folks waiting struck up conversations with us, asking us about having five kids (all five and under!). Then, we sat down, which preceded a greeting line of other parents with kids stopping by to say hi and check in on how we were doing.
One lady left her table to stand by and talk to us until her food arrived. Random folks would stop by to say hello throughout the meal. We were a freak show. A circus act. A magnet that drew toward us anyone who had an extroverted thought during that hour.
It was both really amazing and ridiculous at the same time. For the latter, we could have been filming a pilot of a new sitcom that the gimmick is this hyperbolic-sized family couldn’t finish half a pancake for they were always being drawn into conversation. It was amazing, though, because we instantly disarm people. Austin is a friendly town, in general, but folks don’t just talk to random people that often. If you’re at the same event or sharing some unique experience, I’ve had some great conversations, but not just while eating at a cafe.
It is amazing how seeing us with five kids, or with twins, folks are drawn to us and willing to just talk to us. We must not seem that scary. One of the problems of urban life is you’re always surrounded by a large number of people, but easy to feel alone as everyone lives their own lives avoiding each other. For whatever the exact reason, people don’t avoid us.
While comical, funny, and easy to write off as silly, it’s nice. Both for us—I do like attention after all—and for people that maybe are having a little bit better of a day after seeing our family in relative peace and harmony.
The twins were tired enough that they mostly slept through the entire breakfast and the other three girls behaved swimmingly. We did live up to the stereotype at the end. MC said she needed to use the restroom, so I took her to the men’s room and helped her. Before we get back to the table, T, who is a newly potty-trained two-year-old, declared her bathroom needs as well. With T, when she says she needs to use the bathroom, the path better be clear with nothing to cause a delay. When she says she needs to go, she should have already gone 20 minutes prior.
Poor V. Alone at a table with four kids, hearing one needs to go to the bathroom, no idea how to handle getting a kid to a tiny bathroom before she pees all over a cafe that we can’t just never go back to because one of our kids peed on the floor before when she has two carseats with babies, a 2- and 4-year old.
I don’t know what V’s plan would have been, but as we walked up to the table, she took T out so I could take her to the bathroom. Repeat the action, including walking into the guy who we had walked into moments earlier when I left the bathroom.
We take care of business and return to the table to, you guessed it, the third of three potty-trained kids needing to use the bathroom.
During the chain of bathroom visits, V didn’t realize I was still eating and sent the food away. A parent’s life is no longer fully their own, which is seen in no greater way, than in the ownership of your food.
In the end, we made it out of there an hour or so later with no bathroom accidents, all smiles, no major messes2, and with quite a few more friends.