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April 29, 2010

Torn Between Sympathy and Irritation


TO: Mom with Two Young Kids Running Around Restaurant
FROM: Experienced Mom of Three Whose Kids are Young Adults
RE: Torn Between Sympathy and Irritation

You and your two darling girls were having breakfast with three women in a coffee shop last Friday. I smiled when I saw the group of you chatting away, knowing how cathartic it is to vent and luxuriate in intelligent conversation. I recalled how I yearned for adult conversation during those years when I was home with my small children and felt my brain turning to mush.

But then your girls finished eating, and in the way of small children, were instantly ready to move on. The next thing I knew they were dancing by my table and I was frantically covering the sharp corners afraid someone was going to crack their head. Waitresses carrying hot coffee and plates of food were having a hard time negotiating around the.

I looked towards your table. You had your back to the scene and were engrossed in the conversation.  It made me angry and I was trying to figure out how to say something kind and polite that wouldn’t sound snarky because, I truly do understand your situation. I was there.

Fortunately your girls went back to you and their loud whining made you realize it was time to leave. I saw how sad you looked as your friends settled in for more coffee and talk as you walked out the door.

This incident was on my mind all weekend and I was torn between sympathy and irritation. Does the concept of “it takes a village” mean I should accept that behavior because I understand what you are going through? Or should I have gently reminded you to be considerate of the other patrons and employees of the restaurant?

Only those of us who are/were stay-at-home parents know the isolation and mind-numbingness those early years bring. I didn’t know that was part of the job description when I signed up. Taking kids out to restaurants is part of how we teach them how to behave in social situations. It also starts to teach them good manners. So while I’m torn between sympathy and irritation at you, in the end I’m going to side with good manners (and irritation.) Please remember to be sensitive to all the people around you when you bring small children into public places.

P.S. I know it feels like forever right now, but I promise you these years are fleeting and soon you will be the mom with the kids in school who can have that second cup of coffee with your friends.

This is an oiginal post to 50-Something Moms Blog.