Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bier in the afternoon.

Just on the other side of the river, near the state capital building and farmer's market, is Germantown, a funky little neighborhood known for its renovated factory buildings, modern lofts and townhouses, great views of downtown and amazing restaurants, like Monell's - the best family-style Southern restaurant ever.

Each fall Germantown hosts an Oktoberfest that, I have to say, gives all other local festivals a run for their money. It could be that October is the perfect time of year to be outside in Nashville (not too hot, not too cold and humidity-free enough for blue sky!), but I suspect I like this festival best because it revolves around beer. Walking around outside with a beer in your hand is a luxury here in the bible belt. Especially if you have a child.

We used to take drinking outside for granted. When the weather warmed up we would just go to our nearest bar with a patio and let the kids play outside while we drank beer with our friends (yes, we'd bring our babies to the bar). But recently Nashville enacted a smoking ban that makes restaurants choose if they are going to be non-smoking or 21 and up. If a restaurant allows smoking on the patio (which, I'm pretty sure ALL of them do), the patio is considered 21 and up and no kids are allowed. Drinking outside is fine for smokers but totally unacceptable for people with children. Who would have thought?

Oktoberfest is one of the last places in Nashville where I can drink a pint with my husband without hiring a babysitter. It's a luxury I'd hate to miss.

What I forgot to take into consideration this year is that our child is less put me in the stroller and take me wherever you want me to go and more I'm the boss and what I say goes. Because of this, Oktoberfest was not exactly the way I remembered it.

First of all, there are like a million letters and numbers and shapes that have to be properly identified before you can pass by. You might think you scored a pretty close parking spot but the truth of the matter is 1,208 rectangular water meters stand between you and the Bier Garden. 1,208 water meters that have to be read, letter by letter, accurately but very, very slowly.

"Mama! Look! A rectangle. W-A-T-E-R-M-E-T-E-R. Yay!" I started standing on them or trying to herd him in another direction but that son of mine is one clever boy. The only thing that would keep him from seeing a water meter rectangle on the ground was a square For Sale sign on someone's lawn. "Mama! Look! F-O-R-S-A..."

In addition to the reading, there's the jumping. Lots and lots of jumping. Up the curb, down the curb, up the curb, down the curb. You get the idea. His favorite spots to stop and jump were typically right in front of a church bake sale or a somewhat questionable fish-fry. Politely declining a scrappy kid with a Rice Krispie treat clutched in her hand once is hard enough; politely declining for five minutes while your child jumps up "one more time" and then down "one more time" is excruciating.

By the time we got to the actual festival, Liam thought he owned the place. He marched through the crowd, bobbing and weaving and cutting people off at every turn. I followed him closely and the two of us left a mess of overturned Radio Flyers and strollers, spilled beer and three person pile ups in our wake. Bill hung back and watched, amazed that two small but clueless people could cause so much destruction.

When we worked our way far enough through the festival to see the grassy field that was home to both the bier garden and the kids area (genius), Liam decided he had seen enough. He stopped walking, stretched his arms up and said, "Mama holds you?"

"Oh no, buddy. You need to walk. Mama can hold your hand but I can't hold you. OK?" Right. This was met with immediate tears. We're standing at the edge of a grassy field, surrounded by happy families on a beautiful fall day, this close to a German beer and the Neil Diamond cover band and my son is sitting down in protest and wailing, "Nooooo, Mama! I need to hold you!"

Now, I know what you're probably thinking. Save some face and just pick the kid up already! Yeah, I know. Trust me, that's my usual M.O. Why do you think I'm in this predicament? As much as I'd like to avoid being the mother of the screaming child, I need to stop spoiling and coddling and letting him boss me around. If I think it's embarrassing now, just imagine how I'll feel when the terrible twos are over and he's still acting this way.

Besides, and this is the real reason I had to stick to my guns, the kid is heavy. The constant one sided back pain Bill and I have suffered to avoid Liam's meltdowns are turning our bedroom into a seedy massage parlor that smells of Tiger Balm and hot rice sacks. If we can't draw the line for the sake of our child, we need to do it for the sake of our spines.

So while Bill went to get in line for beer, I squatted down to Liam's level to explain, once again, how we behave in public. When a warning and an explanation didn't cut it, I had no choice but to give him a time out. I think it was harder for me than it was for him. I mean, how awkward can you get? Standing next to your wailing child and ignoring him in public? I could have died.

Disclaimer: This is NOT the actual timeout.

I think it was the shortest time out in the history of the world but it worked. At least, it kind of worked. He stopped crying and started listening but stayed in a bit of a mood the rest of the afternoon. If I'd ask him to hold my hand he'd balk momentarily before pouting, "No. Not that hand. That hand." Well, excuuuuse me, mister.

Despite our 30 pound, iron willed dictator, we still enjoyed the heck out of Oktoberfest. Nothing an ice cold beer and a couple rounds of Sweet Caroline can't fix. (So good, so good!) It was an (almost) perfect Saturday.

If he looks happy it's because the picture was HIS idea.


timshel said...

this cracked me up. Nothing like trying to speak subtle threats under your breath in public. Jude has started to actually say in the loudest most dramatic voice possible "you aren't going to spank me are you Mama?" That really flies in East Nashville. I think spanking is worse than Non-organic meat. Or maybe non-organic meat is worse. I always forget which is which.

Katie said...

What is with the beard Bill? Going huntin'?

Erick Dubuque said...

I loved the visuals I got from your story Mag. I can just picture Liam pouting. Nice work holding your ground!

Courtney said...

LOL! Love the family photo at the end too!