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In Praise of the Pizza Parlor

Often, I get so caught up in the rigmarole of daily life—the diaper changes, the runny noses, the getting to work and school (almost on time), the missed naps, the deadlines, the nights out, the temper tantrums, the mood swings (mine, theirs), and the constant negotiation of feelings and fights—that I become cynical about parenting and overlook the obvious: My life is a lot of fun.

You know what it takes to remind your jaded, tired self of that? Two kids dancing like maniacs in the booth at the pizza place.

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Most of you probably have a neighborhood pizza parlor—and if you don’t, by all means, go find one (preferably not one featuring a mouse mascot or a national chain). We have a great pizza place down the street that offers low-key counter service, jamming tunes and a welcome alternative to cooking dinner.

We go there at least once a week (I’m not ashamed!) and even the toddler knows the ritual: Stick the kids in the stroller; walk over; stand in line; order slices and meatballs; find a booth; place the cheese, garlic and red pepper shakers at a suitable distance; spill a few drinks and wait for the slices.

In the short interim a dance party often starts. Sometimes my girls just sway and groove while remaining seated. Other times (cue the Ramones), they jump up in the booth and bust a move so hard I get nervous about wearing out our welcome.

I can sit back and eat a slice without trying to contain my kids.

But that’s the best thing about a pizza joint—you’ve got to work hard to get kicked out. Kids are everywhere; some screaming, some crying, some eating so sweetly you wonder what they’ve been promised for dessert. Instead of shunning my gals’ wild behavior, the guys behind the counter either smile or ignore us. Sometimes they even cheer the girls on as they deliver our fare. It’s friendly, and I can sit back and eat a slice without trying to contain my kids.

I’ve heard parenting compared to being sentenced to an endless Outward Bound trip—it’s an exhausting adventure with some beautiful moments, and you are surrounded by juvenile delinquents whom you're obliged to reform. Many of my most beautiful moments don’t happen where I expect (breathtaking hikes, gorgeous sunsets at the beach) but instead occur when I least expect it—like breaking it down in a dingy booth with my two little monsters as we ingest giant slabs of carbs and cheese.

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So for one split second before I start complaining again, I want you to know this: I’m grateful I get to do this. Parenthood isn’t for everyone—and it shouldn’t be—but this time around, I’m glad it’s my crew making a scene in the restaurant.

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