As parents, when will we look back on this stage and miss it?
"Remember when we used to hit up places like this after a long night out?" he said as he held the drooling, wiggly baby in one arm and ate chicken fried steak with the other while I shoveled eggs into my mouth between the toddler's incessant requests for more toast, because she had just discovered jelly, a condiment she is was convinced was sent down from heaven to this café from God himself.
That was back when we would stay up until two in the morning on purpose and come rolling into cafés like these for a stack of pancakes or a pile of eggs, twenty something, tipsy and childless.
It's a far cry from our current state of thirty-something, hungry and sleepless.
But I'm not sure how our waitress would have categorized us that morning when she walked toward our booth and caught me absentmindedly singing, "I need coffee, I need coffee, I need coffee" into my fork.
I didn't even know I was doing it until I saw her face pull up into a full-on laugh as she handed us our menus and took our drink orders.
"I'm thinking you need coffee then?" she smiled.
"Huh, yeah," I replied. "And maybe a little time away from the kids."
She left and we laughed too. Our idea of a fun had morphed a bit from planning a night out on the town to planning a trip to take the toddler swimming in a hotel pool.
Sitting down to eat breakfast at a café like this used to be a relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning. These days it's more like a bad idea, a chance to test our patience, my incognito breastfeeding skills and, apparently, experience the thrill of eating jelly out of those little plastic packets.
But in between cutting up chicken nuggets, cleaning up spills and sipping cold coffee, the reminiscing made me take notice of all the different life stages that were seated in that busy café that morning. The rumpled weekend college kids we used to be, the parents of teenagers trying hard for discussion, the elderly couple quietly and ritualistically sharing the newspaper, the 5-year-old boy out to eat with his dad who kept turning around to sneak a peek of our baby...
And behind me a woman talked with her mother about giving her teenage daughter relationship advice. And in her words I heard my own mom's voice talking over the hum of the radio in the mini-van, driving us somewhere so we couldn't escape it, the same technique this woman seemed to employ. And I couldn't help but think that in a few short blinks that a different version of us will be in that café while our daughters are sleeping in or out with friends.
And we will say, "Remember when they were little and we would come to these places to make a mess and noise and barely take a bite? Remember when there wasn't enough coffee in the world?"