OK, OK, I’ve gotten so much hate mail about my last entry/column that I feel like I’ve got to clarify a few points:
1. First, thanks for reading about one of my worst parenting times ever. That was — though many of you might not believe it — a hard episode for me to write about because I’ve spent so much of my life as a perfectionist. Being a mommy has made me learn to accept my own faults, my shortcomings, my occasional lack of control without beating myself up mentally for days and weeks and months.
2. I agree with those of you who said we should have left the restaurant. I’ve got plenty of reasons — some might call them excuses — for why we didn’t, but in hindsight, yes, it would have been best. As a whole, the experience seems atrocious. Living in it moment to moment, however, I felt that each time I dealt with a mini-disaster, I was able to redirect their behavior and re-establish calm quickly at the table.
3. My husband and I have no qualms about taking one of our kids out of a restaurant and dealing with errant behavior. In fact, Mr. Noah knows already that if we say, “Do you need to go for a walk outside with Daddy/Mommy?” it means he’s in trouble. Sometimes, he actually says yes, and he gets a needed break for a few minutes; regardless of his response, though, he is removed from the table until he calms down. In this case, I was flying solo with the munchkins, leaving me feeling incredibly short-handed and out of my element — another reason for my floundering and inability to maintain strict order.
4. Here’s why I ended with “Deal with it”: Because it’s life. It happens. Bad days, bad hours, bad eating-out experiences have happened to all of us. I used to go out to eat and be very judgmental of parents who had noisy kids. And then I learned that some restaurants are places to have relaxing, peaceful meals, and others — such as Friendly’s — are restaurants that cater to kids (this Friendly’s plays SpongeBob Squarepants on five TVs, for example) and, therefore, naturally come with more-relaxed standards. I consider it my job to control my kids; I consider it compassion when other people understand that, sometimes, you’re just off your game.
And, finally, for the record …
5. I picked up the crayons, the straw wrappers, the promotional piece, the kids menu and the apple slices immediately and put all of them out of reach.
Sam and I picked up the trains immediately as well and, when it was clear after letting Noah have another chance to play with them, I packed them away.
I apologized to the man who had the near-miss with the wooden train (and he was quite gracious, telling me he had kids and had gone through tough dining-out situations).
Sam and I cleaned up the spilled corn despite the staff offer to do so.
I cleaned up with lemonade spill, also despite the staff offer to take care of it.
I overtipped the waitress, apologized for our mess and thanked her for her patience with us.