My pulse quickened. There wasn’t a hot dog or chicken finger to be seen. No sliders. No mac n’ cheese. No salt dredged in salt deep fried with a high-fructose corn syrup reduction and red dye finish. Nada.
When the waitress dressed all in black except for a killer red lip (with impressive staying power) filled our water glasses and told us the specials, I played it cool by smiling and nodding too much while I willed myself to have a superpower strong enough to subdue my children. I looked into the server’s eyes in a way that I hoped said, “my kids eat charcuterie for lunch every day.” And not “by charcuterie, do you mean shaved ham from the deli counter and string cheese in individual wrappers?”
More people arrived: women in heels and strong perfume, men in ties and styled hair. I started to sweat.
“It’ll be fine,” my husband answered.
In that moment, I didn’t even know him. He was a stranger to me. In minutes when the kids inevitably mutinied and held the host in the lovely floral shirt and snappy undercut hostage behind the bar, the craft beer my man ordered would dull the pain while I joined the rest of the swanky patrons in pummeling him. He picked the place after all.
In his defense, https://www.acheterviagrafr24.com/vente-viagra/ we’ve slept very little lately because the baby hates us, so he may have suffered memory loss and forgotten we’re married with FOUR kids and drive a minivan. The PTSD from this dinner would probably ruin him.
We could have cut and run. We hadn’t ordered. The baby gummed the table a bit and our 3yo was pretending the knife and the fork were best friends, but we could go: leave a tip for their trouble and plead the fourth: the fourth baby.
I imagined the infamous diner owner who yelled at the screaming toddler. I saw her sidling up next to our table waiting for an opportunity to discipline my children. I thought of her disdain over the parents’ choice to order their little one full-sized pancakes while my 7yo chose a pasta dish with shrimp and contemplated the soup du jour: a watermelon gazpacho with a feta mint garnish.
My chest tightened.
“Let’s go,” my head said. “Don’t disturb other diners. Don’t inconvenience the staff.”
Suddenly every customer and staff member was one of the hundreds who weighed in on whether or not children belonged at certain restaurants or in public. In seconds I convinced myself they’d all vote for child-free air travel and among them someone was likely working on designer child muzzles.
And then I looked at my family. Our baby was smiling, our 3yo’s cup had morphed into a plaything, my 7yo and 9yo were comparing elementary school war stories.
We were fine. We were good. We were just customers.
I ordered a Bloody Mary. The kids got small plates and devoured them. The waitress was lovely–her delivery was light and fun. Chloe leaned in to me to say, “she’s nice. I like this place.”
We left without tears–mine, the kids’, the other customers’.
We left without incident.
There are places my children do not belong: adult bookstores, child-free wedding receptions, the premiere of a Quentin Tarantino flick. I know that.
But they, we belong most places–airplanes, restaurants (most of them), the subway, near that guy on the escalator who hates children, stores, on the sidewalk in front of the house with the neighbor that never smiles. We’re people. Sometimes we’ll be inconvenient. Sometimes we’ll be inconvenienced. We have to allow for that if we want to coexist. And I do. I want to coexist.
That night after dinner, I didn’t resolve to allow my children free reign in public. I didn’t dismiss my annoying awareness of everyone around us. I just thought that while my kids are behaving, when they’re being developmentally appropriate, that I, at the very least, could do the same.