Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not my most shining moment

But I'm not sorry. Well, maybe a teensy bit. I did something today at Golden Corral that I probably would have sworn up and down this morning that I would never have done. 5% of me is a little embarrassed; the other 95% isn't sorry at all.

I'll be the first to admit that we were not having one of our better days. Luke has seemed tired all day, for no particular reason. I've thought once or twice that he was running a fever, but the thermometer says no (yes, I tested it on myself; yes, the batteries are fine). He seemed in quite a good mood when we picked him up at daycare, so we decided to try Golden Corral for dinner. It takes a bit to get there, but we did provide him with some juice in the car to hold him over. After we got there, though, things went downhill rapidly. He didn't want to stay with us in line, he was shredding the paper from the straws while we were waiting to pay (it is a buffet restaurant, so you pay as you enter instead of when you leave); just being unusually uncooperative.

As a buffet restaurant that has "family night," even a somewhat restless child is just lost in the noise and shuffle of the place. Lots of food, lots of kids, lots of movement, plenty of "background noise." That's why we eat there! Very family friendly. And if Luke gets too upset and cannot calm down, we remove him from the restaurant until he can get a grip. Just because it is family friendly doesn't mean that I will let my child just "cry it out" if he is screaming and wailing. As someone who gets supremely annoyed with parents who allow that, I refuse to do that to others. We actually did have to take him outside at one point tonight, but it was not until well after the following incident.

Normally, we pick a seat, with DH and Luke on one side of the table, and me on the other. DH takes Luke to get food while I get the table prepped. Pour his water into one of his non-spill cups, remove knives from all silverware sets (so he can pick the one he wants), speak with the waitperson, etc. They come back, DH sits with Luke while I get food. By the time I get back, L has had some bites of food and is generally content for DH to go get his own food (no, DH can't get food when Luke does; trust me, you want both hands available with L at the buffet!).

For some reason, Luke was not at all happy when DH got up to get his own food after I came back with my plate. DH went anyway, L cried for less than 15 seconds (I promise; three wails and it was over), and then went back to eating while "watching for Daddy to come back." DH came back and L was happy, if rather wiggly. As we ate, this old man shuffled back and forth past our table at least twice. He was giving off this strange vibe that just rankled my nerves. I really didn't like the way he looked at my son, but I couldn't tell you any particular reason why. Most older folks either smile or ignore children; this one was just looking at him oddly, and I didn't like it. Thankfully, he was sitting a couple of tables over with his back to us, so I only had to worry about it when he got up.

Turns out, I had good reason not to like him. We (the adults) finished our plates; I got more food, then DH went to get more food. Again, Luke fussed when DH left, but this one was even shorter than before. And again, I admit, this was unusual and not showing Luke in his best light. I am a firm believer in not letting your child disrupt those around you as much as possible, but both times, he calmed down very quickly, so there was no need to remove him from the restaurant. I told Luke that Daddy would be right back, and he needed to be a big boy and watch for Daddy.

About this time (DH was still getting his food), the old man and his wife got up to leave. As he walked by our table, he was just staring down Luke, which made both Luke and me uncomfortable. As he passed by me, he said rather loudly, "That little boy just cries all the time." I BEG YOUR PARDON?! We've been here for at least 30 minutes, and he has had two fussing episodes that lasted a sum total of less than 30 seconds (probably closer to 20). I don't think that counts as crying all the time! I was tired, I was cranky, I was frustrated with my son and with his behavior, but this was just too much.

So, I turned to the man, and in an equally loud voice (so that I knew he would hear me) said, "Well, sir, I don't believe I asked for your opinion!" We locked eyes for brief moment, his showing surprise and mine glaring anger, and then I turned my back on him. There were two women sitting at a table across from me, one in her late 40s and the other in her early 60s. (The old couple had been sitting on the other side of them; who knows what other things that man had to say about us that they may have overheard.) The older one just looked a bit surprised that I had said it and quickly turned away from me (she wasn't necessarily being rude; she was sitting with her back to me anyway and probably thought that I thought she was staring). The younger woman, who I know had heard both sides of the exchange, just gave me a small smile and nodded, giving me that "you go girl!" look.

As a more or less well-bred Southern girl, I am slightly embarrassed that I spoke to "an elder" that way. I would NEVER have spoken to any of my grandparents' friends in such a manner, especially not as a child. That is the 5%. In a way, I simply cannot believe that I did it. On the other hand, there was very little wrong with my son's behavior as far as affecting anyone eating around us, and I will not have someone criticizing him for no reason, especially with such a sweepingly false accusation! Had he said "that little boy sure is fussy today," then I probably would have been irritated that he had said it, but it would have been the truth. But "that little boy cries all the time" is patently wrong, and I felt it was both overly critical of my not-even-three-year-old child and a blind judgement of my parenting skills. I'd just had it, and I felt the need to stand up for both myself and my son.

Did it solve anything? No. Should I have done it? Not sure. Am I sorry? Not really. At best, perhaps he will think before voicing such an opinion to another mother in the future. At worst, he can complain about the boy who "screamed all through dinner, disrupting the entire restaurant" and the bitch mom who did nothing about it and has no respect for anyone else at his next bridge game.

Currently feeling: still fuming


  1. ((Erin))Don't be sorry or feel bad. Sometimes older people, or even young people who don't have children, or have fogotten what it was like when their children were almost 3 are just plain cranky about the smallest inconvenience a child causes. My child is certainly no angel, and I have my struggles trying to keep her quiet and well-behaved in public places. Seems like lately the few times I've been out with DH or with Alex without Katie I've ironically been seated next to a particularly noisy child. I've made a point of smiling knowingly at the mom, so that she knows I understand. I hope I never lose that point of view, and can always smile knowingly rather than getting cranky.

  2. I think I may have been even ruder than that if I had been you. Luke is an absolute angel compared to most children that I know.

  3. I think I would have responded in passive-aggressive kind and stated loudly, "See that old man, honey? He complains all the time about things he has no knowledge of!" =)


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