I’m not into parent shaming.
I believe that, for the most part, we are all just doing the best that we can.
I recognize that we tend to see each other’s parenting skills in snapshots, and, in those small moments, it is hard to get a full picture of how a parent functions in their role as caregiver and disciplinarian.
However, every now and then, I get a glimpse of something that shocks me, rocks me, and shakes me to the core.
Let me set the scene:
My Mother spent Thanksgiving in Paris on a free trip she received as a result of an engine malfunction on a river cruise last summer.
Rough life…I know.
She came back into town at the end of this week and she and my father offered to take our family out to dinner at Friendly’s on Saturday night so we could catch up and enjoy some time together.
Restauranting with kids can be tough.
We’ve had plenty of “SSSSSSHHHHHH!” moments throughout the years, combined with, “No, you can’t get out of your seat, we are in a restaurant,” “Please give your brother the blue crayon back before he makes a scene,” “We don’t bang our fork on the table,” and the old stand-by, “Bathroom? Again? But you’ve been three times!”
So, I get it.
As the kids have gotten older, we have had less of those incidents, but I am still sympathetic to the cause and just tell my kids not to stare when someone else’s child is having a moment.
On Saturday night, my Mom was regaling us with tales of her cruise when Real Man completely interrupts her and just starts repeating, in a low voice, “Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod.”
We all turn to him, as it is pretty out of character for him to interrupt, but it’s totally out of character for him to react in such a way to anything, and we (as well as the girls at the table next to us) follow the direction of his eyes to the booth that was behind my Dad.
In the booth was a father and two sons…if I had to guess, I’d say ages 8 and 7. Possible 7 and 6. But definitely school-aged children.
Earlier in the meal, they were loudly fighting over a tic-tac-toe game and a word find, but Friendly’s is a noisy restaurant, to begin with, so I thought nothing of it.
Actually, the younger brother was the one who was doing the arguing and yelling, and his older sibling was looking at his father waiting for an intervention that never came.
So, now, we all follow Real Man’s gaze and find the younger brother with his head thrown back, ketchup bottle firmly attached to his lips, doing a two-handed squeeze of ketchup directly into his mouth.
It lasted about 30 seconds, however, RealMan had been “ohmygodding” for about 30 seconds before we all caught on, so it’s safe to say the boy had a minute’s worth of ketchup in his mouth, and dripping down his face.
Dad looked at him, and continued to eat.
At our table, we all just looked at each other with “Did that just happen?” faces and the girls at the table next to us just stared at each other in disbelief.
And then he did it again.
We eventually got on with our dinner, pausing every time he lifted the ketchup, to silently watch the spectacle.
And then he picked up the salt.
At Friendly’s, the salt containers are glass, and you have to twist the end to crush the rocks of salt inside and then it comes out.
Head back, grinder on tongue, twisting and twisting the salt onto his tongue.
Dad watched and, again, said nothing.
Back and forth: mouthful of ketchup, bite of burger, tongueful of salt, fry.
And, lest you think there was no ketchup on his burger, he actually used a napkin to wipe all the extra ketchup off of the bun as it squished out when he squeezed it to fit in his mouth.
At one point, the boy said to his father, spitting burger and ketchup onto the table as he spoke, “I want ice cream. I’m going to get ice cream.”
And the father, finally interacting with his son, said “When the waitress gets here. Don’t get up, or you won’t get any ice cream.”
Which prompted the boy to get out of the booth and walk to to the front of the store where he disappeared for three minutes.
When he came back, he sat down and continued to eat, as did his father, who had nothing else to say.
The waitress arrived and asked if everything was okay, and the boy said “I want a scoop of plain chocolate ice cream.”
She looked at Dad who nodded, and she walked away.
He ate his ice cream without incident, other than demanding another scoop from the waitress when the one scoop he ordered arrived.
The meal ended, they paid, and left and the waitress immediately arrived with a bussing bin, spray and a washcloth.
I leaned over and said “Excuse me…you need to take the ketchup and salt off the table and throw it away, because…”
The waitress interrupted and said, with big eyes, “Oh, I know!!! I said something to the Dad early in the meal, but he didn’t do anything about it! I am throwing them away!” and then proceeded to scrub the table and booth with the zeal of a hospital custodian cleaning up a surgical suite after all of the victims of twenty-three car accident have been through.
So, if I’m not into parent shaming, why am I sharing this?
I share this because it’s one of those, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you type of stores, but I also share this so that maybe the next time you are at a restaurant with your kids and they spill their apple juice, you will remember…it could be worse!