After our fairytale of a family night, I could not wait to get our squad together again. Eli had his kids pretty frequently at that point so we got to have a family date just about once a week. We spent our time at the park, walking around my neighborhood, and had some great family meals at In-N-Out. Something that I learned pretty quickly when romping around with four kids under six-years-old, was that there are certain places you can take two kids, that you absolutely cannot take four kids. Parks were safe, Target was safe, Whole Foods worked for us for some reason, but sit down restaurants were now a no-no. Not only is extremely painful to purchase four meals that have a combined total of 10 bites taken from them, but our kids were so excited to be together that asking them to sit at a table for even 30 minutes was like punishing them. After a few “sit-down” meals, we decided to stick to In-N-Out, which is why if you follow my Instagram, it looks like we live there. 🙂

We did however have one of our earliest and sweetest family moments at a restaurant called Eureka. It was probably our third or fourth time out as a family, and we sat in a large booth towards the back where they stick all the families with small children. By the way, that is the funniest thing to me. I totally don’t have a problem with getting sat in the “family section” and logically it makes sense, but waiters and waitresses don’t seem to think we parents notice that they are sitting us at the proverbial “kids table.”

Anyway, we sat down; the girls on one side of the booth and the boys on the other. They all had their crayons and menus and Eli and I were figuring out what to order. Mid-sentence I stopped talking and realized that it was quiet and calm. I nudged Eli’s leg under the table with my foot and glanced at each one of the sweet little faces sitting around us. “This is it.” I thought to myself. Looking at Eli I knew he was thinking the same thing. My eyes started to well up with tears because I couldn’t believe how full my heart felt. It wasn’t the fact that they were being well-behaved; it was a realization that I could do this. We could do this. This could be our life.

The rest of our meal went smoothly, aside from no one eating their food because kids do that sometimes. W, P, L, and Z enjoyed each other’s company and really bonded that day. I have a video of our boys giving each other a hug and I feel so lucky to have captured it. With each family date, the kids got closer and closer. They connected so much more quickly than most kids would connect with their peers.

When I look back at my pictures of our “new” family days, the sun was always shining and the kids were always smiling. We all laughed constantly and my love for Eli’s kids grew substantially. I remember that there were a few stressful times, where not everything was rainbows and butterflies, but I would not expect anything less with FOUR kids. I have a fair amount of patience in most situations, but when there is even an ounce of danger or mess involved, I can get a little anxious. This is where Eli steps in.

During one of our family outings we decided to go on a walk with the kids and bring all of their scooters along. Three out of four kids had just gotten these scooters for Christmas so they didn’t have a ton of practice, and OMG I was a walking ball of stress. You know that clenched teeth, scrunched forehead, worried face that moms get? I think my face was in danger of sticking like that permanently by the time we got home from our walk. We went down a slight (and I mean very slight) hill, and I actually put my hands over my eyes. I peeked out and Eli was running in front of them and doing a little manual breaking for each kid. It was hilarious. He was jogging backwards, going from scooter to scooter gently slowing them down. He was smiling softly and making little “breaking” sounds for them. He looked so genuinely happy. He never even winced. And guess what? The kids were fine. There were a few stumbles here and there, but everyone did great.

Seeing Eli in this light was so endearing. He had, and still has, this amazing parenting style that I am trying to channel. He watches and listens intently, but doesn’t take over every moment. He lets his kids have an experience, but is there for them the second that they really need him. His thoughtful approach seems effortless. It is so refreshing and special. I wouldn’t say I am a helicopter mom by any means, but I can be a bit “hovery” in new situations. Eli does this thing where he sets the kids up with whatever they are doing, and then takes a step back and observes. The first time I really saw him do this was when we made cookies for the kids to decorate. We set everything out for them, and he stepped back, while I stood over my 3 year old and guided her. I noticed that he was standing a few feet away smiling at the kids, with not an ounce of stress on his face. Just totally content. I realized that I was hovering and asked myself why. Did I want my three year old’s cookies to look “good?” I kind of laughed at myself when I realized that there was no valid reason for me to be “helping” my kids with their cookies. It could get messy, but so what? It’s vegan frosting; messes can be cleaned.

The more time I spent with Eli and his kids, the more time I wanted to spend with Eli in general. I didn’t just want to see him on my kid-free days and our family days. I wanted more. But when would we fit it in? Decisions, Decisions…

M

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