This is not the post I was supposed to be writing today. Right now I am supposed to be taking pictures of my 364-day-old baby so I can post a sweet, heartfelt, sob-worthy birthday post tomorrow when he turns 1. But my baby is blissfully taking a much-needed nap while I get to sit on the couch with a Diet Coke and think about how much needs to be done before his party on Saturday.
Except instead of party planning, I am working myself into a rage for the third time this week over that story out of the diner in Maine. I have spent entirely too much time, energy and furious typing on this story already, so what’s another hour?
Although I am extremely inclined to believe the family over the diner owner, I cannot prove anything one way or another. Even in this age of social media and cell phone videos as far as I know there isn’t any footage to confirm or deny the length of the tantrum. I’ve already word-vomited my feelings about that part of the story all over Facebook, much to the distress of some of my friends’ friends who insist I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about because THEY SEE parents being bad parents ALL THE TIME. I actually hardly ever see anyone being a terrible parent and can’t remember any time vividly enough to recount it for you now. Maybe I’m not observant or maybe my threshold for “terrible parenting” is just wicked high after having three kids. But if that is something ALL these internet commenters experience ALL the time, I cannot deny it happens.
So I give up on all my previous statements, assumptions and conclusions. You are right, people of the internet. Maybe these parents were incredibly neglectful, lazy and selfish and their monster of a toddler screamed at the top fo her lungs for 40 minutes, ruining everyone else’s morning. They are horrible and completely in the wrong for not taking their kid out of the restaurant.
But the part I absolutely WILL NOT concede is that the diner owner should be congratulated or treated as some sort of hero, standing up for the rights and eardrums of all the polite, respectable people who all seem to have raised their children without a single mistake ever or who are doing us all a favor by not having children in the first place.
I will cut a paste a few congratulatory comments so you don’t have to read all 1,000+ of them yourself.
“LOL I really like this owner!”
“owner did the right thing. that’s it!”
“I think the owner had every right when the parents r sitting there making everyone pay for their child’s temper tantrum. If u can’t control a Whiney kid….Stay the hell home! When I go out the last thing I want to listen to is a whaling brat!”
“Ugh. I’d have thanked her right then. Take your shrieking spawn outside please.”
“Restaurant owner is right. Dumbass mother is wrong. Case closed.”
“As for the owner, I applaud her. Simply put, her restaurant, her rules. It doesn’t necessarily matter if she has kids of her own or not either. She acted perfectly fine.”
“I give the owner support for her so-called rude response…apparently that’s the only way to get thru to the parents…the child had given a pure example of that truth! 40 minutes of ignoring your child is rude …BE A PARENT!”
Let me just be clear here: yelling at a kid in this situation does not make you a hero.
Do you know what makes you a hero in this situation? Kindness.
Kindness, patience and sympathy, which all seem to be rarer than unicorns these days. I feel extremely lucky that most of my interactions on a daily basis fall into the “polite indifference” section of the grid rather than “angry hostility” or “crazy screaming person” areas. I appreciate anyone who lets me just go about my parenting and life business without instantly writing me and my kids off as brats, jerks, whiners, life-ruiners who don’t really deserve to be out in public at all.
My heroes are the people who help when they don’t have to. The waitress who sees that I am struggling to keep my toddler in his high chair long enough to eat my meal and brings him apple slices to gnaw on is a hero. The cashier at the grocery store who starts to talk to my whining 4-year-old to distract her is a hero. The nurse at my doctor’s appointment who holds my baby for me so I can get changed is a hero. The lady at the beach who shares her snacks with my kids so they don’t have a hunger meltdown after all the snacks I brought have run out is a hero. My definition of hero here is pretty low, but in all those situations I am as grateful as if they had saved me from drowning. In a way, that is exactly what they are doing.
Those people are heroes because not only are they doing me a huge favor and embodying the idea that it takes a village, they are demonstrating in a real, tangible way to my kids what good behavior looks like. Instead of reacting to anger and frustration with anger and frustration, they are living proof being kind and calm is a real solution. “Oh!” thinks my kid, “She is trying to communicate without throwing a fit! Maybe I should also try that!”
That is how you turn irrational, screaming babies into full-sized good people. You model the behavior you want them to emulate, in private, in public and in diners. It can take a while, years even, but there isn’t really another option. I work really, really hard every waking hour of my day to give my kids the life skills, language and emotional maturity to one day be someone’s employee, boss, wife, husband, neighbor or friend. It is a fact of human survival that babies and children are necessary to create full-grown adults, so we need to allow for them to exist, even if sometimes they are awful. Kindness is how we teach them not to be so awful.
If you tell me that because these are not YOUR kids and YOU didn’t choose to bring them into this world you have no responsibility or obligation to help me teach them to be kind, I cannot argue with you. That is totally true. You are not obligated to do any parenting, so please enjoy doing things like sleeping in, going to brunch and yelling at whoever you want. But try to remember that you – YES YOU – were once a child. If your mother or father is available, call them up and ask them to tell you about their absolute WORST parenting moment. Maybe they can remember a time someone was kind to them while they were struggling, and the next time you encounter a horrible child in public you can pay that act of kindness forward.
No, you do not have to go above and beyond for me just because I have kids. No, I am not asking for special treatment. It is just so disheartening to think that so many people hate my family just because we exist in public spaces, we have bad days, and sometimes we make noise. I swear I am doing the best that I can to raise my tiny humans into people you would be happy to sit next to in a diner. If you can show them a little kindness, you can be a hero.
I’ve been staring at this for 15 minutes now, trying to decide if it’s worth hitting publish when I am fairly certain I’ll get yelled at for my post about not yelling at people. If you feel the need to comment or share, please be kind and give me and my commenters the benefit of the doubt when it comes to judgment, entitlement, parenting styles and anything else.