Whenever we go out to eat my boys are pretty well behaved, but they are definitely not perfect angels. I have had my fair share of public humiliation, moments when I want to crawl under the table with my veggie lo mein or casually walk away explaining that I must have accidentally sat down with the wrong family. I learned several key lessons early on, things like: 1. Never leave home without a stock pile of snacks, coloring books, crayons and various other distractions. 2. Carry bendy straws because the straight ones are just a recipe for flooding. 3. Don't wear anything that I don't want covered in food. Despite my many precautions, we have endured some pretty difficult moments and I developed a keen sense of empathy for other parents experiencing dinner drama. Last night may have been an exception.
We arrived at one of our favorite Thai places with hungry bellies and were happy to see that there would not be a wait. (Everyone was out getting fish as it was the first Friday of Lent) However we were quickly informed that there were no available high chairs as two other families had already laid claim. No biggie, John is much better about sitting in a booster seat than Paul was at his age and we happily wedged him against the table between myself and CJ. I noticed that one of the families was sitting at the next table. Their little boy was a few months younger than John, and he was unhappily perched on his father's lap, leaving the high chair available. Apparently the mom mentioned that they should give us the chair since their child was refusing to sit in it, but the dad grumbled something about not caring if we were pissed off about it. Which we weren't. As they waited for food to arrive, the little boy cried and carried on, and I could feel the tension rising from the table. I felt bad, knowing how difficult it is to get a hungry toddler to sit still and be calm. Thankfully my children were being sweet and patient as I pulled out all the distractions from my bag of tricks and let them occasionally get up and look at a nearby fish tank. Then John did something naughty - I can't remember what it was exactly - and CJ spoke to him about it. A little background: John does not like discipline. What child does, right? But most children can handle the hard stare, the firm angry voice, a 2 minute time-out. Not John. The second your voice hits the discipline range he bursts into hysterics. Which he did at that moment. And the mom across from us whipped her head around so quickly I could feel a breeze. Ah, so they aren't perfect! I could hear her thinking. That is when my attitude shifted. I had been sitting there, feeling bad for these parents who were trying to console an angry toddler and occupy a whiny preschooler, and they had been sitting there, waiting for my kids to screw up. Like it was some sort of endurance competition. Parenting is hard. Why do we need to make it harder by pitting ourselves against others who are trying to succeed at the same thing?