I really feel like this story needs to be told. Not for my pride or own amusement or anything -really – other than a sort of Public Service Announcement to anyone who thinks they may be “trashy” but are really just “new parents getting used to being late, loud, & completely disorganized all. the. time.” Spoiler alert: this story involves Arby’s, a park, and toddlers.
Landon (our oldest, now 5) was only about 18 months old or so. We were new to parenting and, relatively speaking, new to each other. Though, we really had no idea how new to everything we really were.
We lived in a small town in northern Ohio, pretty much on our own little island. The nearest family or friends were about an hour away. So, some of our best times were spent taking walks with each other and Landon around he neighborhood and to a little park about a half-mile away. The “Yellow Park” is what Landon still calls it today (I don’t know how he remembers it).
Okay, so here’s where it gets juicy: with this being such a casual spot for us, we often would walk there in sweatpants, workout clothes, or pajamas (I think you know where this is going). On this day, in particular, we were lookin’ pretty fresh. I believe Ashley and I took no particular care in what we were wearing or in what Landon was wearing. What I’m getting at is that we looked pretty homely. Landon had recently developed a love for Arby’s, where we mistakenly exposed him to “Circle Fries” which he asked for on a regular basis.
Landon was playing on the playground while Ashley and I sat at a nearby picnic table. Then, another family walked into the park with their two children in tow and – some bags of Arby’s. They sat their kids at another picnic table and started opening up and munching on the Arby’s. And, if that wasn’t enough – this family drove a really nice expensive SUV. They were all dressed like freakin’ GAP models. The children were well-behaved. They sat right down. They stayed put. They were saying please and thank-you. And, when Landon caught a whiff of Circle Fries, it was game over.
He stopped playing and slowly stepped down from the playground. If Ashley and I hadn’t already looked so hideous, one would’ve seen that we were becoming absolutely mortified. We didn’t know what was going to happen, but we knew it was probably going to result in our embarrassment.
Landon walked cautiously toward the family. Why didn’t we stop him? Why didn’t we distract him? It was like a train wreck going on right in front of us but we did nothing to stop it! Why? I really don’t know. The best I can say is that we were new parents and didn’t fully appreciate the gravity of the situation. Maybe we didn’t know how to appropriately diffuse the situation. In any case, what we saw happening was going to continue to happen. Landon finally stood a couple feet away from the family and stared. He was in his homely little hand-me-down outfit and he had those big eyes like a starving child on some charity commercial. Meanwhile, Ashley and I were sitting still and helpless on the nearby picnic table looking like some strung-out pathetic poor couple who accidentally had a kid and now we can’t afford to take care of it. Now would be a good time to scoop Landon up and leave.
But we didn’t leave. Landon proceeded to stick his hand out and say “more?” Like a little freakin’ real-life Oliver I swear to God he said “more” like five times until one of the adults gave him a fry. It was at that point that Ashley and I finally sprung into action.
We rushed over and apologized all over ourselves and tried our best to explain that he was just fed breakfast – we swear he’s not hungry – he’s recently discovered Circle Fries – we’re so sorry – we just live around the corner so we didn’t get dressed for the day we’re just having a lazy day. While they were, of course, polite – nothing we did or said could get rid of that look of sympathy on their faces for poor little Landon. We were being judged, in that moment. I could feel it. And words cannot describe how quickly we were able to put Landon back in the wagon and rush ourselves back home.