Have you ever sat down in a nice restaurant and unfurled your linen napkin to the symphony of a toddler’s tantrum in the background? Did you silently wish for the waiter to move you far, far away? Were you not craving a break from you own kids?
Have you ever been on the other side of the drama? Desperately trying to calm your three-year-old after saying no, she cannot use the pepper mill as a hammer on the mahogany table?
This was my Saturday evening.
My family went out for dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday. She chose a high end restaurant; the kind with the dim lighting and dark wood paneling, the kind you go to for an adult’s dinner. There were six adults, one teen, two children, my sister’s toddler and her 6 day-old baby.
Later that night my sister called in tears.
She was so embarrassed that her two-year-old kept standing up in his highchair, dumping a small bowl of dipping sauce in his lap, which she thought reeked throughout the restaurant…
My sister’s perception of the evening was a fiasco.
Yet my perception was a beautiful gathering of our family.
How can two people at the same dinner table have two completely different views?
What is worse judgement or fear of judgement?
Even though my perception of the evening was different, I know exactly how my sister felt. Every mother has been there. At some point, while raising even the quietest angel child, every kid loses it.
They don’t want to leave the park. They want the sugary cereal at the grocery store. They start undressing in the food court at the mall. They go into a long monologue of what their poop looked like this morning at the quietest part of the movie at the theater.
And all we want to do is curl up and die of embarrassment. You have been there at some point too haven’t you?
Why then, if this is part of the human condition, is there still deep-seated shame when our children are not perfect in public?
I immediately turned from sister into coach mode in order to help my sister.
Part of the problem is that we think others are judging us, when really they are more concerned about themselves.
Raising a child is by far the hardest gig out there. It is not for the faint at heart, and it is never going to be perfected, because we are raising human beings. Considering that my sister pushed a seven-pound baby out of her nether regions a whopping six days prior, and still managed to round-up the family and make them look presentable enough for a fancy restaurant is to be commended not criticized.
Anyone who needs to complain about a restless toddler needs a reality check of their own.
Next time you see a frazzled mother dealing with an unruly child, do me a favor and tell them: We’ve all been there. This is a hard job. You are doing great. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. And feel free to give them my name, because I am here to help.
Have you been on the receiving end of criticism of your parenting skills in public? Have you ever felt ashamed of your child’s behavior? Please share in the comments below so that my sister sees that she is not alone.