Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dining with Kids

I was having dinner with a friend in an upscale cafe the other night and there was a large table together with a few kids of different ages. One of the moms had a screamer. Not a crying/upset screamer but a "I just found my voice" screamer who would pierce the restaurant din with a high-pitched yell every now and then. Startling, at times, but it made me smile because I remember those days. Not so for the patrons at the next table. "Should I give them a look?" I overheard from the man sitting there, as they discussed the situation. And he did, after a few more times. He was turned away from me, but I could sense the nasty, cold stare that he was directing toward the mom. And I cringed.

My kids are not good diners. My first was a crying/upset/miserable screamer. So much so that we didn't eat out at all until he was over three - after a few nerve-racking attempts. My second is much more mild-mannered but he's a swiper and a thrower. Anything within arms reach is promptly overturned, leaving me or my husband with a lap full of food or drinks if our reflexes are too slow. And he hurls toys and books unexpectedly. He's hit a few random diners with crayons and the like. So I know "the look" all too well. But I also know the forgiving smiles from others who say "Don't worry I have kids, too" or the kindness of the stranger who remarked "He's got a good arm - maybe he'll be a pitcher."

And what does "the look" help? Do we not understand that children are children? That very young children who have "found their voice" don't understand "shhh" or "inside voice" just yet? Are we so intolerant as a culture that we are unable to forgive the inconveniences of the next generation or so forgetful as to dismiss that we ourselves likely engaged in similar behaviors?

I felt for the mom, the recipient of "the look". She was dressed up and smiling, nervously. She was likely enjoying a rare night out - perhaps with out-of-town friends or family, or maybe even as a vacationer herself. Others had brought along children but she was singled out. I wanted to yell at "the look" giver, as a mom. The noise faded into the background for me. Funny how, as parents, you no longer notice the loudness of children in any environment. I likely gave "the look" to someone myself in my pre-motherhood days. I could never have imagined the volume of my household before it was populated by two rambunctious boys (and two dogs). Silence isn't something familiar to us and I can't say I mind all that much.

So, for the record, my sincerest apologies to anyone in my past to whom I ever gave "the look" to. I have only now begun to understand. And to the rest - seriously reconsider inflicting a scolding, "you are a bad mother" look the next time someone else's child breaks your "peace". Mothers have enough guilt, they don't need more. Perhaps some day you will understand - or remember - what it's like to be a child, or a loving parent, and discover a little tolerance for dining with kids.

1 comment:

  1. When I was little I remember hearing a man say of family of five kids say loudly to his companion, "Children shouldn't be allowed in resturaunts." And my Dad shot back, "well-behaved children should (like us five) but Rude Patrons should not."

    I like my dad.


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