You'll have to forgive me, I didn't catch your name. Honestly, if I passed you on the street, I probably wouldn't recognize you. I'm not sure what color hair you have or how tall you are. I don't know your age or where you're from.
All I know is that you sat near us at Outback on Friday night, so I could make certain assumptions about your life, but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to do my best to give you the benefit of the doubt.
So for a moment, let me tell you about us. We don't eat out very often. When we do it's normally at one of those counter service places. You know the ones that are just a step above fast food. We go to places like Chipotle, or Chick-Fil-A, or Firehouse Subs. Oh and pizza...we do pizza quite often.
We work. My husband and I both work full time. And we have young children...as I'm sure you noticed. So on nights that involve errands or dropping off cars for oil changes, well, it's very hard to get home and get dinner on the table before bedtime. So on those nights, we do eat out.
Rarely do we go to a sit-down restaurant. It's not very affordable for a family of 5 and really the kids are much more happy with chicken nuggets or pizza. But on occasion, when we're feeling financially optimistic, we will go to a place like Outback. Before Friday night, I'm pretty sure I hadn't been to an Outback in over a year. The food is okay, and it is very pricey.
I won't take my kids to a nice restaurant. If I'm not sure what kind of place it is, I always call and ask about the noise level and if they have a kids menu. I am always very conscience of my children in public and how they're acting. I never want them to be perceived in a bad way. I know they aren't bad children, I know they're just children. But some tend to jump to conclusions based on a momentary meeting or impression.
So Friday night we decided on Outback, and so did you. I didn't even notice you. I was very busy cutting up grapes for the baby, finding ketchup for the preschooler, and walking my 2nd grader to the bathroom. There were definitely some tears from the baby at the beginning, and maybe towards the middle when the grapes ran out and he had to wait for more. You see, we're in this crazy kid phase. He doesn't want to be in the highchair but he's really too young for a booster seat. He loves the booster, but he doesn't like to stay put, you know? Maybe you don't. Again, I don't know you at all, so I don't even know if you have children. But trust me, 18 month-olds are terrible listeners. Asking them to sit and quiet down simply does not work.
It was as we were finishing our dinner that you made your presence known. You walked over and very politely said "Excuse me, I have a request for you." I looked up and don't think I didn't notice that you were directing this at me. You didn't even glance at my husband.
You continued..."The next time your son is screaming at the top of his lungs, please take him outside as to not disturb the other guests in the restaurant."
Or something like that. To be honest, no one has ever said anything like that to me before. And at this point my husband was talking back. Like usual, I can never defend myself the moment I need to. I'm much better at taking the time to write it down. Plus, while all this is going on and you and my husband are exchanging words (and again, don't think I didn't notice how you kept looking at me, even though he was doing all the talking, like "A mother should control her children.") I'm very aware of the fact that we have 3 sets of little eyes watching us. Three sets of little ears hanging on every word. Three little minds and personalities being shaped and impressed by everything we do.
There was an exchange, a heated one. I think the only thing I did was thank you for informing us of how to be good parents. Some smart ass comment, that probably didn't even come out the way I intended it to because I really suck at that kind of thing. Then you left. I can't remember what you said after your initial "request" and I can't really remember any of my husband's words...just the look on his face.
So here's the thing...I get it. At least I'm trying to get it. I'm trying to not be all judgy and rude, like some people. So I'm saying to myself...maybe this was her and her husband's only night out all month. Maybe she's never had children, or maybe she does have children, and she just doesn't know or remember. Maybe this is the highest quality restaurant they go to. Maybe my baby did ruin their meal.
If any of that is true...I'm sorry. Really, I'm sorry if my child caused you grief and annoyance. I'm not being condescending or sarcastic. I'm really sorry.
But I think, maybe, you owe me an apology too. Because what were you hoping to accomplish? How does informing me after the fact that my child has ruined your night, do anything but make me feel terrible? How does approaching people about the way they handle their children fix anything?
That night I went from being embarrassed to upset to angry to confused. But here's the thing, if you were sitting in front of me right now, and I had the time to think about what to say to you so that I didn't cry or scream. I would say this. You have every right to a have a nice dinner. But I have every right to take my family to dinner at a family restaurant. You have every right to be annoyed with my kids. But they have every right to act like kids. Newsflash...we all live on this planet TOGETHER and we all have to figure out how to work it out and get along.
So next time you're sitting near us in a restaurant that's meant for families, please feel free to ask for another table. If I notice, I may be a bit self conscious but I will understand. Please feel free to roll your eyes and cover your ears. Again, it may bother me a bit, but I get it. But please, do not stroll over in all of your high and mightiness and tell me how to sooth my baby or raise my children. I've got that covered.
The Woman with the Screaming Kid at Outback