Friday afternoon, after an unusually hard week at work, I pulled into Anne’s school. Thankfully, the handicap spot was open so I parked easily and went inside to pick up Anne from the after school program. As soon as I walked into the lobby, the ASP worker called on her walkie-talkie, “Anne Jackson, Mr. J., we need Annnnnne Jackson.” Anne loves hearing her name on the walkie talkie. I heard her jabbering with Mr. J. as he pushed her forward toward me and Kate. As soon as Anne saw us, she blurted out the same questions she asks everyday, “I’m hungry!! Do you have anything for me to eat in the van?” I usually respond, “Anne, we’ll eat when we get home,” but I was tired, and it was Friday, so I answered,”We’re going to a restaurant! Daddy is meeting us there!” Anne was so excited she tried to stand up out of her wheelchair but was pulled down by her seat belt. “Really?? Kate!!! We’re going to a restaurant. Are we going to go IN? Really, we’re going to go IN!!!”
We don’t go to restaurants very often. As excited as Anne gets about going to a restaurant, once she gets there, she becomes highly frustrated. Friday’s trip was no different.
We walked into the casual Mexican restaurant and I was relieved that we had arrived before the Friday night crowds. Practically empty, we seated ourselves next to the fountain – a novel distraction for Anne. As Kate searched for pennies in my purse, I asked the waitress if she could immediately put in an order of chicken fingers. Motioning to Anne I said, “She gets very impatient waiting for her food. Could you bring it as soon as possible?” With kind and understanding eyes, the waitress walked to the kitchen and then returned to get our drink order. Meanwhile, Kate was helping Anne throw pennies into the fountain. Again, thankful for the empty restaurant, I watched Anne hurl pennies across the room. Patiently, Kate would retrieve them while Anne laughed.
Before the waitress returned with our drinks, Anne lost interest in the fountain and began her impatient screams for food. “Where is my food?! I HATE this restaurant!! Why don’t they bring me my food??!!!!!” This is the reason why we rarely go to restaurants. Eric was running a little late and I was grateful he was missing Anne’s predictable tantrums. Canon and I took turns trying to reason with Anne, “Anne, your food is coming soon. Just a little bit more time. Be patient, Anne. You’re getting your food first.”
The waitress returned with our drinks and placed a large glass in front of Anne. Anne immediately grabbed for the glass and spilling water on her pants, she screamed again, “It’s cold!! I HATE this restaurant. When is my food coming?!!” The waitress met my eyes and responded, “I’ll get a cup with a lid.” Relieved, I started cleaning Anne up.
The waitress brought Anne a new drink (and extra napkins) and finally began to take the rest of our orders. In Anne’s typical playful way, she reached into the waitress’s pockets retrieving her phone and playing with her pens. Amazingly patient, the waitress tolerated Anne’s social miscues, looked into her eyes, and said, “I think your food is almost ready.” Anne had made a new friend! She responded enthusiastically, “Ranch dressing! Would you please bring me ranch dressing with my chicken fingers?”
A few minutes later, the waitress (who was now a super hero in Anne’s eyes) placed the plate of chicken fingers in front of Anne with a huge bowl of ranch dressing. Heaven. Anne was in heaven. And the whole table breathed a sigh of relief. We had made it. Anne had her food, and all was well. Just then, Eric arrived. Seeing Anne’s plate of food, he smiled with understanding, “Perfect timing.”
After Anne was happily full and we had all finished our meals, the waitress brought the check. She smiled at Anne who was giggling and playing with Canon. I turned to Eric, “Leave her a large tip.” Without hesitation, he responded, “Yes ma’am.” And we left, feeling triumphant that we had survived (a typical activity for most families) – eating out with our sweet and sassy Anne ;)