Recently, I took my sweet little family out to eat with our best friends and their daughter, who is our daughter's best friend. We went to a noisy little Mexican restaurant with an open floor plan. My son, Joshua, was yelling happily for the majority of the time. Because he's 1. For the most part, it wasn't that bad. I was surrounded by tables with children at them, how could anyone single out my kid's happy chirps, when I couldn't even hear my daughter trying to talk to me from the other side of the table?
We were having a nice time catching up and being out of the house. Then, at the end of our meal, a happy looking woman who looked to be in her 50s approached me at my table. In the middle of this loud restaurant. She had a crooked smile on her face and I could see her clutching her purse tight while she rushed over to me, apparently to tell me something vitally important. She started off by saying “excuse me, I just had to tell you . . .” and I put on my best grin, while I waited for what normally comes next. “your son has the most beautiful eyes” or “I'm glad to see families getting out to spend time together, yours is beautiful!” if not one of those, it's usually some other compliment about my young family and how I should appreciate the wonderful little moments with them. Not today, friends. Not this lady. My smile was quickly wiped away when she proceeded to tell me how miserable her dinner was because of my family. “Your son has ruined my dinner” she said. “You need to keep your children home until they can learn to be silent”. Silent. I was mortified. She felt like she was giving me great advice. “Practice at home before you bring them out around all these people who are trying to have a nice dinner”. She kept going, and then when she felt she had said enough to me, the mother of two toddlers, I thanked her and she left. She waddled away clutching her purse tightly, feeling good about herself. I thanked the woman who just tore me apart.
At this point in our meal, I had struggled to keep all the toys on the table for all the babies to play with, I got up several times to get things off the floor and put them back in my child's hands. When she came up to me, I had taken around four bites off my own plate total and we had our food for over twenty minutes. I kept the same maniacal smile on my face (did this really happen?!) until she finished telling me that I ruined her day. It was probably pitiful to watch.
This woman saw my children for twenty minutes, and decided that I should be ashamed of myself for bringing them into public. She believed I needed to keep them home and “teach them to be silent”. I was crushed. I was publicly and maliciously torn apart by someone who didn't know me, didn't know my children, but assumed she did. She assumed that they are always “bad” by her standards. She thinks that her right to a quiet meal on a Friday night, at a busy and loud restaurant is important enough to damage someone deeply. I'm a mom. I spend time every day thinking I am a terrible mother, like most parents in my generation do. But this woman thought it was her right to come up to me with a smile on her face and say these terrible things to me, about me, in front of my children. This woman's cruelty has shaken me to the core.
It has taken me over a month to truly feel better about the situation. It hurts to hear someone tell you all of your fears are true. You're a terrible parent, your kids will never fit into society, and you're a piece of garbage. But none of those things are true. Logically, I am aware she was having a bad day. I know I can't make everyone happy. I know everyone does not love children. One bitter woman's misery is not my responsibility.
This situation has changed me. I will never give a mother a dirty look for having a crying baby. I will never tell someone they need to teach their child manners, or they should stay home. The next time I see a parent struggling, I will ask them if there is any way I can help. Or I won't say anything at all.
It is NEVER okay to tell a parent they are doing a bad job.
You're a stranger to them, you don't know them. Your words are heavy, choose them wisely. Choose kindness. Every family deserves a night out. Don't take that away from someone.