We had the luxury of going to dinner at two different restaurants this weekend. We are lucky if we eat as a family at a restaurant two times in the same year. This was pretty exciting for all of us. I am not ashamed of the dance of joy I did when my food arrived… food I didn’t have to plan for, shop for or cook! I was even more delighted that I didn’t have to wash the dishes after our meal either. And, this happened TWO DAYS IN A ROW!! If you’re a mom you know the joy of which I speak.
You may be shocked to learn that dining with little ones is not always a relaxing experience. I have to say I am pretty proud of the way my kids behaved and we didn’t even have to bribe them! We reviewed the rules with them before entering and again once we were seated. Hubby and I were so excited to be out among the living! (I even wore make up and left the frumpy pants at home! I was that excited!). My excitement, however, was dampened when we were seated near a woman who was clearly annoyed by my child’s enthusiasm for being out in a restaurant.
My girl wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary for a 4-year old (I was actually feeling really grateful for that!). But, nonetheless this woman is shooting me looks and glaring at me as if to send the message “do something about your kid.” At first I felt like I needed to rush in and appease this woman’s expectations for my child to be seen and not heard. I felt like I needed to apologize for her discomfort sitting near a small child. Then I realized it isn’t fair to punish my child when she really wasn’t doing anything rude, or breaking any rules.
I shared last week my kids can have terrible tantrums in public, but they can also be really good in public! No, really! I felt like we were having a good night and my kids were being charming. So, why all the scrutiny from this onlooker? Is there truly NO place for parents to go without being watched and quietly critiqued? My emotions took several twists and turns as we ate our meal and I felt the burning gaze from this woman. Here are the cliff notes of my inner monologue:
I will not apologize for who my children are. Both of my girls are talkative little story tellers full of excitement and energy. I will not expect them to stop talking because it is bothering someone else to hear them. Although most mornings I’m wishing for a pause button on their conversations while I finish my coffee. Only because they wake up like this and its hard to fain interest so early in the day. I could have shushed my child for talking too much, but it wasn’t bothering anyone else except this one person. I was raised in an environment where children were to be seen and not heard. It didn’t stop me from talking. In fact, I think that’s why I talk to every single person I meet because I was rarely allowed to share my thoughts. (And now I have all of you!). I ran through the check list of things in my head: my girls wasn’t shrieking, jumping, yelling, kicking, running or throwing things. She was just being bubbly, chatty and a little wiggly (in all fairness so was I). That’s who she is as a person. I will not ask my daughter to squelch that so someone else can feel better for the 1 hour of their life they have to sit near her.
I will not feel guilty for having spirited children. It is amazing how other people’s glares or judging stares can make us immediately feel guilty. It can make us feel like we have already failed as a parent just walking in the door. I am not entirely sure where this pressure comes from, but I often find it stopping me in my tracks. I want my children to be perceived as the beautiful little people they are. Trust me, they are NOT without faults (hence the reason this blog is not titled,Damn Right My Twins Are Better Than Yours!). My children love to be fully engaged in what’s happening around them. They will soak in all the details and discuss them and ask a ton of questions about them. They notice details like the ceiling fans are not moving and want to know why. They’ll notice every last do not smoke sign, point them out and then count them. They notice there are two forks on the table and ask why and then rearrange them in an order they like best. It’s just who they are. Again, no one’s throwing knives or running across tables here. It can be completely exhausting to get through a meal with this intensive Q&A (I almost always finish my wine before my meal). But, my child wasn’t asking this person 1,000 questions. So what am I really feeling guilty about here?
I will not explain my children to other people so that they are more comfortable. During this trip we also met up with family. We had to skip out right after our meal to get on the road and make the 3 hour drive back home. Oh how I wish we could have stayed longer and really soaked up the extra time with everyone. But, I could see how hard my kids worked to get through the last 2 hours in a restaurant, after they worked hard to get through the 1.5 hours at church after not getting nearly enough sleep the night before. I knew in my mother’s heart I could not push them a minute longer let alone another 2 hours of socializing. I spoke with my husband who agreed we should take this opportunity to exit. Not everyone understood why we were leaving. I really wanted to explain that I was saving them (and myself) the torture of a one hour shrieking meltdown once my kids had reached their max. I wanted to explain how Sensory Processing Disorder works; how I am the expert in my kids and I know what’s best for them. I wanted to explain that the last two years of extreme meltdowns has taught me how to recognize when my kids are going to blow. I didn’t explain anything. They just observed my kids being awesome, why can’t we just leave it at that?
On this Whatever journey of mine, I am learning to let a lot go. That includes the pressure from strangers to guide my children in a way that makes THEM comfortable. I have to spend 24/7 with these little people. I also have to make sure they grow up to be productive members of society. I can’t cave under the pressure from outsiders and adjust my parenting style according to the standards of every stranger annoyed by my kids. I have bigger things to worry about in life; like making sure my kids aren’t throwing knives and jumping over tables.
I wanted to be angry and for a second that mama bear in me started to imagine ripping this woman’s face off. But, instead of getting angry (or removing body parts) I gave her a little tip of my glass and said, Whatever!
Have you ever had a situation where you felt you wanted to defend your child to a stranger?