Suburban Snapshots

If They Think My Kid's Bad, They Should Meet My Dogs

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I want to thank the strangers and passersby who take the time to critique the parenting of others, who care enough to offer helpful suggestions, who make blunt, smug observations of the behavior of children they haven't raised.

Specifically, I want to express my gratitude to the family of five? Six? who glared at us for the duration of their meal at an adjacent table last night, making obvious their displeasure at the boisterousness of our playing three-year-olds.

Anna wasn't on her best public behavior — she was squealing, she refused to keep her damned shoes on, she was hugging and chasing her younger friend around the mostly-empty dining room as I attempted to wrangle her — while we parents had the audacity to try and complete our sentences.

The kids were loud, they were mobile, they were rambunctious — you know, they were kids. I understand that people don't like to be disturbed during a meal out, I hear that, but I also know that there are better methods than our fellow patrons used to request a little peace and quiet.

We all judge, but most people choose to do it silently. Most people observe quietly and complain to their partners out of earshot back in the car. But the parents one table over felt it their moral duty to verbally scold us. And they waited, standing in their group of five (six? I was too busy shoving my daughter's shoes on for the fourth time to take an accurate headcount) as they left. They stood staring, waiting to catch our eyes, hoping for a moment to vent their frustrations directly to people they knew nothing about, to pass judgement on kids they'd spent all of twenty minutes with.

"I had kids, and I never let them behave this way," he sneered at me.
"It was really a bit much," she added.
"OMFG our parents are totally mortifying us right now," said the daughters' faces.

If only that disgruntled father had given me a moment to collect his parenting medal from the bottom of my purse. And the mother, whose children's behavior never pushed those limits of patience that every parent — except she, apparently — is so familiar with.

In the moment I wished I'd had a better comeback, something that would have left them speechless or apologetic. But I didn't, because I knew the kids were loud, I knew I could have done more to contain Anna, and because I was stunned by how deliberate it all was, how condescending. Who does that?

Ironically, even after the running, giggling and general disobedience, it was the behavior of two grown adults that proved to be the most disruptive.

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