Stop staring. I think to myself. Stop whispering. I think to myself. I know my child isn't behaving. I know she is disturbing Mass. I know she just pushed your son. I'm sorry. I really am. But stop.
You don't have to point. You don't have to say that your children knew how to behave. That they sat quietly with a book. That they were polite and perfect. You don't have to tell the waiter that dinner was lovely but you wish they would seat disruptive children in another part of the restaurant.
Trust me, I think that is a fabulous idea. Take the old smoking section of the restaurant, make that the adult only section. (Cause let's face it the smoking section was always in the bar). Make a section where the families can sit. Where moms and dads can enjoy a meal they did not cook or do the dishes when the child didn't even taste the meal.
Where they would not feel judged.
What I really want to scream out loud is WE ARE DOING THE BEST WE CAN.
It's been a long decade, year, month, week, day, hour, minute. We are holding onto our sanity by a thin thread. You might believe that your child was a perfect angel. That they never raised their voice inappropriately. That they sat quietly in Mass. That they never pushed a friend or hit a sibling. Your child would never have colored outside the lines (or on the wall).
The truth is, just like childbirth, you have forgotten what it was like to have a young child. That you were once like us. Parents burnt out by work, family and homework. You are looking back at the good times of being a parent. The time when you son got an "A+" or your daughter kicked the winning goal.
You are forgetting the pain of doing fractions. The fight to brush their teeth. That beds will be unmade. That there are temper tantrums (sometimes being performed by the parent). That we are all tired, hungry and just done. So we went to a "family-friendly" restaurant for respite.
And got spite instead. As you sat in the booth across the aisle and sipped your wine. I did feel bad when Boo screamed (with joy, mind you) so loud over the pop corn you were startled and spilled your wine. At least it was white and will not stain. When you cringed because Abby was speaking in her outdoor voice. That your experience was spoiled by Boo hitting Abby because she wanted to use the crayon Abby was currently holding.
I get it. You were just looking for a night out as well. You were not expecting to be seated across a family whose children were really excited about cheese & crackers for an appetizer.
You could have ordered me a glass of wine, with a kind nod of a survivor who had been there, done that and survived. Instead you remarked, loud enough to be heard, that when your children were young they knew how to behave.
I really wanted to scream out loud, LIAR. Your children were probably spoiled brats or bullies or the neighborhood menace. But I didn't. Instead I mentally thought how great it was that Boo enunciated pop corn for the first time. I blocked your stare of condemnation. I ordered my own (second) glass of wine and planned on tipping our waitress well, really well.
I promised myself that in 20 years when my children are grown and I am seated across a mother trying to do her best I will order her a glass of wine in your honor.