While waiting for the iced tea I ordered and my friend to arrive at the restaurant, I couldn’t help but hear the commotion going on in the booth behind me. I also felt the commotion as a child was not only screaming at the top of her lungs, but kicking the seat behind me; our booths were attached, so I felt every blow.
My tea arrived, and I realized after the waitress left, the normal sweetener options were absent. I decided I would grab some from an adjacent table, but just as I was ready to get up, a blood curdling scream came from behind me. That scream was due to the fact that the French fries accompanying her meal were not to her liking. There was nothing anyone could do to stop the noise.
People were glancing in the direction of the screaming, a man glared over at the table and shaking his head made an audible comment about people controlling their children, and I heard the mother of that child say, “Honey, these nice people just want to eat their dinner in peace, it’s ok, try them.” This caused an even louder protest and she finally said, “Just take her out, I’ll get to-go containers and pay”, and then in more of a pleading voice said, “Please…. take her out now.”
Dad left with a screaming child in his arms, and his head bent down as not to make eye contact with the dozens of eyes now staring his way. Mom motioned for the waitress and asked for containers as, “My daughter isn’t being a very good girl and we will just eat at home.”
Mom was left to wait for the check, alone.
I decided now was a good time to get the sweetener and as I turned around, I watched this young momma as she pushed the contents of her plate into the foam dish. Of course, she was going to have to eat that food cold when she got home, and there was a good chance it would be much later than she would have hoped. I saw her fighting back tears and the look of almost despair on her face and before I knew it ...
“Excuse me.” I said.
“Yes?” She replied, catching her breath awaiting my, what she was sure would be criticism.
“Anyone who has had children has been exactly where you are at one time or another and guess what? We all survived…and you will too.”
For a moment she said nothing and I began to question whether I should have said anything; but then, in one continuous breath she said, “Really, because I was just sitting here wondering what I’m doing and what I was thinking wanting to stay home and yet I know, next year when I have to go back to work, I’ll be questioning if that was the right decision and I’ll miss her…she really can be a sweet girl.”
I smiled and said, “Yes, they have a way of driving us crazy one minute and melting our hearts the next. Trust me, you are not alone, and really – enjoy her…I have four and it doesn’t feel like it now, but the time goes by so fast.”
She forced a smile and I grinned saying, “Hey, I’m proof! I lived through four boys…and you’ll get through this too, I promise.” She genuinely smiled saying, "thank you" and I returned to my seat.
My friend arrived just as the sweet, tired momma exited the restaurant and we started chatting ninety miles an hour as we typically do. She told me a story of her now college aged child saying, “One minute I wanted to kill him and the next I was praying he was alright!” It was at that moment, I realized a few things…
When children are little we are worried that we are totally screwing them up, that they will never learn how to eat without food going everywhere and they certainly will not know how to use the toilet properly.
Then they get a little older and we hope they remember the envelope that you’ve reminded them about ten times and after dropping them off at school, receive a frantic call two hours later because it’s picture day and guess what? The envelope of money is still on the counter where they left it.
A few more years pass and you hope they really heard the talk about treating others kindly, and as you read the horror stories of bullying, you watch them roll their eyes at you as you, once again explain how once words are said, they can’t be taken back.
And then before you know it, they are getting married, and going to college and joining the Army, and getting their very own place to live and starting high school; and you realize it seems like it was just last week, you were the woman sitting in the restaurant booth, silently hoping she could melt into the vinyl seat because her child won’t stop screaming that the applesauce touched the mash potatoes.
I left the restaurant in just enough time to pick up our youngest to get him to basketball practice. The entire ride, asking him questions about his day… did he get his homework done and his gym shirt out of the dryer, because it will be late when he gets home from practice…did he decide yet if he liked Spanish or German better, and commenting how he will certainly have more of an opportunity to use Spanish in the future…. adding that it will look great on a resume’; and I couldn’t help but laugh when he said, “Mom – I got this…it’s all good.”
And that’s the thing…it may not always be how we really wish we would do it. It may not go as smoothly, or near as quietly as we hope; but guess what...every moment gives us the opportunity to start fresh.
If you're the momma crying in the booth because your little one was just carried out kicking and screaming; once they are sleeping after the hissy fit, look at the sweet face and allow the love you have for them to push out the moments of chaos; and if you’re the Momma who knows it goes by far too quickly, I encourage you to be kind to those young, struggling moms you see throughout your travels, maybe remind them that you too are living proof, they will survive.
Whether you need to hear you’ll make it through, or need to chat because your “littles” are now big; one thing is certain…we all need each other.