I love this day.
I love that kids are so easily impressed.
You know how you are a jaded, seen-it-all adult? You know how you are rarely surprised by the usual things?
Well, I am sometimes. I can't help it. I am 36 years old, and I have seen a lot. I have not even barely scratched the surface of "seeing it all", of course, but I have seen more than my children have seen. I have been to many restaurants. I have eaten weird foods. I have traveled to a few cities. I have been to the top of one of the tallest buildings in the world. I have watched Snooki on MTV. (Only one episode, and I am not proud of it.) I even once saw someone wearing a Halloween mask on the El in Chicago, and it was in March. Yo, that was scary.
One of the best things about being a parent is introducing your child to something new, and today I had the chance to do that when they begged us to take them to Olive Garden after Sunday mass.
Yes, The Olive Garden.
It was their greatest wish in the whole wide world at that moment. They begged. They pleaded. They had seen the commercials pronouncing, "endless salad and breadsticks," and they would not be denied.
Bill and I have not eaten at an Olive Garden in years, and therefore our children haven't either, because honestly, I'll admit that I am somewhat of an Olive Garden snob. It's not that I don't love me some chain restaurant action living here in the 'burbs of the Midwest, but Olive Garden? It's the suburban cliche of restaurants.
I might as well just shout to the world, "Hi, I'm Clare, I live in the suburbs, shop at Target, drive a minivan, and eat at the Olive Garden."
Can a gal maintain the tiniest shred of coolness?
But as I rediscovered today through my children, Olive Garden is all that.
I have succumbed. I am a suburban mom. I am admitting it without shame. I am her. She is me. Black Honda Odyssey with a stroller and sports equipment in the trunk and all.
We walked through the door of our local Olive Garden this afternoon, and the kids were instantly amazed. "The chairs are soft! And they are on rollers! And there are fake grapes hanging from the ceiling! And ooh! Look at that! They hung pretty lights all over the place!"
To me, it was just an Olive Garden. To them, it was a new frontier. Uncharted territory.
Bill and I were baffled. We take them out to eat a few times a month, but clearly this time was different. Like I said, they have seen the commercials. "Mom! You can get an endless pasta bowl!" my son enthusiastically informed me.
Thank you, but no thank you. I like my pasta to have an end. I start it. Then I finish it. The end.
"Mom! Look at all this salad! And we can get more! It's endless!"
"The breadsticks! When we are finished with them, we can just ask for more! And they will bring them to us! They are endless!"
Olive Garden introduced my children to the concept of endless. As a result, they are now in love with the concept of endless. They have declared that all things at our house should now be endless. First and foremost, cookies.
Their enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I may or may not have squealed along with them once we got back into the car, "Yay! Isn't Olive Garden great?!?"
I was caught up in their moment.
But the new discoveries didn't end at Olive Garden, because after that, we had groceries to buy. As we strolled through the aisles as a family, checking off the numerous things on my list, we arrived at the baked good aisle and happened upon the Hostess snacks.
And when I say, "happened upon," I really mean that all four of my kids ran at the huge display at full speed.
It's not that my kids don't eat junk food. They are no strangers to Oreo cookies and Chips Ahoy. But Hostess snacks, a staple from my childhood? Not yet. "MOOOOOM!!! These are 2 for $4.00! TWO FOR $4.00!" my son shouted.
Yo. They are 2 for $4.00.
As I looked at the display, the Ding-Dongs made my mouth water. The Ho-Hos looked decadent in all their chocolatey, rolled-cake glory. The Twinkies, spongy and gold, called out to me. I looked at Bill and he was giddy along with the kids.
I decided right then and there that it was time to introduce my children to Hostess snack cakes. It is a holiday weekend, after all.
It was time for this rite of passage.
We decided on the Twinkies and the Ding-Dongs, because if you're going to start somewhere, it had to be there. As soon as we checked out at the register and loaded up the car, I held up both boxes in my hands and said to each of my four children, "Pick one." The oldest two picked the Ding-Dongs, and the youngest two picked the Twinkies. Bill and I each chose a Ding-Dong.
Like the Olive Garden, their amazement was instant. "Wow! The chocolate is hard on the outside! And there is cream in the middle! CREAM! This Twinkie is like a spongy cake!"
You would think I had just introduced a caveman to fire. Or the wheel. It was that monumental.
I couldn't help but smile. Mostly because Ding-Dongs still rock after all these years.
The simple pleasures of childhood were rubbing off on me.
I curse the day that my children become jaded.