Please allow me to take a moment to pray to the gods of all that is holy that my daughter never makes the news for throwing a monstrous tantrum.
Ah, there. Oh, and a super-big thanks to the universe for bringing us to Vermont, which is family-friendly, where no one has ever yelled at my toddler, even while she’s throwing food, pounding her fists on the table, and screaming that her meal is “absolutely disgusting” – she only likes buttered noodles right now. The most public-shaming I’ve received is a (well-deserved) sideways glance.
This past weekend we were at Al’s French Frys. We only get to Burlington once every few weeks, so we usually stop at Al’s for fries, ice cream, and playground time.
Unfortunately, my 3-year-old had just woken up, and it had started raining, so we settled down inside, at a booth at the back of the restaurant. My daughter was more than cranky. She was whining, screaming occasionally, and crying almost incessantly. We were starving, and trying to get her to eat anything just to wake her up a bit and make her happy.
Normally, I would take her outside when she got this upset, but in all honesty, I was feeling tired, lazy, and I just wanted to get food in her. Also, we hadn’t ordered take-out.
A couple sat down next to us, and less than 5 minutes later, I saw them stare at each other with that wide-eyed look that silently screamed, “OMG/Let’s Never Have Children/What’s Wrong With These People, Why Don’t They Leave!?” They got up and moved to another table.
I cringed but wanted to wait it out a few minutes longer. We tried entertaining her with silly jokes and games. It’d work for a minute, but then back to the whining and crying.
Halfway across the restaurant, an older man glanced up from his burger. I cringed again. Finally, I whispered to my husband, “Ok, we’ve tried… this isn’t working. Let’s get out of here.” He offered to give her a break from the table and took her to the restroom.
I hid behind my fries. The older man looked up at me again, and we made eye contact. He cleared his throat like he was about to say something! I froze and thought, “Oh boy, here it comes, he’s going to give me a piece of his mind.” I prepared to apologize and explain my dilemma.
“Excuse me,” he said.
“I just wanted to tell you that…”
(oh no, here it comes…)
“You’re doing a really good job.”
I must have looked shocked. “You mean, you don’t think I’m a horrible parent?”
He continued, “This time of evening is really tough for kids. You’re not bothering me or anyone else. You’re doing a great job. You’re being very patient with her.” He got up and came to the table as my husband returned with our daughter. He continued to share words of encouragement about parenting.
And guess what happened? I relaxed, my daughter ate, and all was fine. Yippee!
Sure, he could have yelled at my child, asked me to leave, or caused a bigger scene. Instead, we talked about my daughter, how smart she is, and he encouraged us to get her interested in science, math, and engineering. He passed on parental wisdom, hope, and a general feeling of this whole dining-out experience being a one-time moment of frustration in a lifetime of parenting adventures. He showed us the big picture.
Two months ago, I wrote a post about an amazing experience I had with a playground mom and her kids. I don’t expect these moments of kindness and understanding to happen every day, or even once every six months, but you lovely Vermonters continue to show me that those expectations can be met in our family-friendly community.
Sincere thanks to the busy man who stopped to hold the door for me this week, the woman who helped my daughter get napkins at the ice cream stand, the guy in line at the gas station who laughed, as my child, who was wearing a princess dress, angrily demanded I buy her apple juice. It made me laugh too, and I needed to laugh in that moment.
It really does take a village to raise a child, and I’m so pleased with the kindness my daughter is witnessing in ours.