Not too long ago, my husband and I took our two girls, 1 and 3, out to dinner on a Friday night. This isn’t something we attempt often, but we decided to give it a go to kick off the weekend. We didn’t go to a five-star restaurant, mind you; instead, we opted for the local Mexican joint close to our house.
We picked up the girls from daycare and headed for the chips and salsa around 5:00 p.m. I’m starting to wonder why restaurants don’t offer an early-bird special for middle-aged adults with small children.
We got there so early that we were among the only diners in the restaurant. We sat in a booth next to the window, with my 1 year old in a high chair at the end of the table and my 3 year old in the seat next to me.
A typical Mexican restaurant meal ensued. We nibbled on chips and chatted about the day as we waited for our fajitas (for me and my husband) and cheese quesadillas (for the girls).
I thought my girls were being pretty well-behaved for the most part. Sure, the 1 year old tossed a few sugar packets onto the ground, and my 3 year old came dangerously close to knocking over her cup of milk, but in the grand scheme of things, they were being pretty good.
As I was tearing up a quesadilla into bite-sized pieces, I noticed that the hostess was leading a woman to a table. She started to seat her at the booth directly behind us. I glanced at my toddler, who was standing in the booth, staring out the window, but not making a sound. I turned back to the woman, who looked at my kids, then back to the hostess, shaking her head emphatically and saying, “No,” with a disgusted look on her face.
She pointed to a table on the other side of the restaurant, perhaps as far away from us as she could get.
As the hostess led her to a child-free area, I felt my face get hot. How dare this woman ASSUME that my kids were so horribly behaved that they would . . . gasp . . . RUIN her meal?
I wasn’t the only one. I looked at my husband, who looked pretty ticked off himself.
“You were a kid once,” he said loudly in the woman’s direction. I kicked him under the table, although I was secretly glad he stuck up for the girls. For us.
Look, I understand. This woman, who was joined by a man who I’m guessing was her husband, probably wanted to enjoy a quiet meal free from babies and toddlers. My first job was waiting tables, and I must admit, I dreaded serving families with young children, mostly because of the giant mess they usually made. Since I’m aware of this, I always try to pick up after my kids as much as I can when we go out to eat.
Also, I understand kids can be loud. And obnoxious. The thing is, my kids were being SO GOOD during this particular meal! It’s not like this woman witnessed two simultaneous tantrums or cheese sauce flying across the room. They were quiet, well-behaved, and actually eating their food.
I guess the prospect of unruly behavior was too much for this woman to think about, so she wanted to keep her distance.
I don’t know her story. Maybe she doesn’t have children. Maybe she works in a daycare and likes for her downtime to be spent away from children. Maybe she had a recent meal out that was ruined by poorly-behaved kids.
All I know is, going out to eat doesn’t happen much for us. I hate for my kids to be bothersome to anyone, and as any mom knows, toddlers are quite unpredictable.
But just because they are toddlers doesn’t mean they’re horrible human beings who set out to ruin the lives (and meals) of innocent bystanders. Plus, I like to have a meal out every now and then.
So, to this woman, shame on you. Shame on you for making me second-guess myself for taking my kids out to eat. Shame on you for making assumptions about my kids’ behavior. And mostly, shame on you for letting your disapproval of my family be made unmistakably evident by your reaction.
I mean, come on, this wasn’t a five-star establishment. And as we scooped up the kids to leave, I took a look around. There were now a lot more patrons, most of them with young children. And several of them were crying.
I kissed my 1 year old on the head, grabbed my 3 year old’s hand, and smiled at the woman as we walked out. We live in a culture where moms are shamed for everything under the sun. I decided right then I wasn’t going to let one person’s attitude toward my kids ruin my evening.
We enjoyed our meal. I hope she did.