Dear Woman in the Restaurant…

OpenLetterDear Woman in the Restaurant,

My husband and I were enjoying our lunch the other day when you came up to us mid-meal to tell us that that our daughter was “sweet and beautiful” and you appreciated us having such a quiet “well-behaved” baby. You made it a point to tell us that our baby had not, in fact, ruined your lunch and you were pleased with that. I know you meant well, you were complimenting us after all! But I’m afraid I must let you know that your “compliment” left a sour taste in our mouths.

Let me explain:

My daughter is one year old. I’m not sure you know much about children, and I’m inclined to think you don’t, but babies don’t actually know how to “behave”. They don’t even know how to communicate. Heck, she’s still learning to walk, chew properly, and drink from a sippy cup. Their worlds are severely limited to say the least. When you walked away my husband and I discussed how in 20 minutes, when she’s full and tired of sitting here, she will start screaming like a banshee.

See the thing is, you caught her at just the right time, on just the right day. Sometimes she is as quiet as a mouse and busy with her food or toy or people watching. Sometimes she is tired and has had enough for the day. The problem is, we cannot just stop our lives, or not eat, or not grocery shop, every single time she *might* get tired and fussy.

When she does get tired, I have a bag of tricks to distract her. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t work and she gets wildly upset, I will leave the restaurant so you can eat in peace.

But here’s the thing, my daughter is “sweet and beautiful” either way. Even if she was upset, and occasionally crying out and I scarfed down my burger as fast as humanly possible and bounced her around or tried to nurse her while waiting on the waitress to bring the check, what would you have done? I have wondered that since the moment you walked away from us. How would you have treated us if she had been upset? Would you have glared? Talked loudly about how annoyed you were? Come and told me how annoyed you were? Because I can promise those things would only add to my anxiety, which would in turn add to her anxiety.

In moments like that, when you’re in the grocery store or restaurant, or basically anywhere public, and you see a small child having a meltdown, the best way to handle it is not by saying cruel words and glares about how YOUR day was ruined, but with a kind smile and maybe a supportive “it happens.”  That can make our day and give us the strength to keep bouncing that baby without having a meltdown of our own from the pressure of being expected to make a person who poops in their pants, “behave”. Or, you can handle it like this wonderful fellow mom blogger.

Parents of young children should not be ostracized from society because their child can be a ticking time bomb. Ideas like this are what add to Post-Partum depression and anxiety. Not to mention, the world does not revolve around you and other people do not exist with the goal to make you happy.

Please remember to come from a place of compassion and to have a little empathy the next time you see a child having a meltdown, and if you feel the need to compliment someone just stick to, “sweet and beautiful”.

Sincerely,
A Mom of a Sweet and Beautiful Ticking Time Bomb
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6 Responses to Dear Woman in the Restaurant…

  1. Sherri Martinez July 1, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    I totally agree. I have a 17 month old and she is a “pleasant” to be around but she definitely is a ticking time bomb. It seems like once you get their schedule figured out, they change it.

  2. James July 2, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

    I totally agree – I have an 18 and 14 year old and they can be both angels and devils depending on the mood they are in…. 😉

  3. Jake Smith July 3, 2014 at 5:51 am #

    Dear Mrs. Hastings,

    I read the open letter to the lady who complimented your family. You made some good points. I have a darling 9 month old who can be predictably fussy. This is heightened due to the fact that we are currently on vacation.

    As a school principal, I’ve noticed a problem that has become increasingly pervasive: the proclivity of young people to express their frustration with everyone except the person or people that it directly concerns. This has long been a weakness of adolescents, but it has become heightened by watching adults demonstrate the same behavior via the internet and social media. What I am seeing now is that young people are less likely to outgrow this indecorous behavior.

    Young adults are more inclined than ever to publicly shame their peers. I understand you didn’t identify the person. However, if she sees your blog, she will still feel the corresponding shame. Even if it doesn’t shame her,there is a virtuous way to handle disagreements, concerns, and complaints.

    Conversations like the one you publicly blogged, are important and felicitous. However everyone deserves the dignity for these conversations to be private. If an individual chooses to behave inappropriately after a private conversation, it becomes more reasonable to discuss the issue publicly. Another reason to address the person rather than blog about them is because like you and your child; there is more than meets the eye. By writing an “open letter” you take the liberty to share your interpretation of an event but the lady in question isn’t given the opportunity to share hers. In all likelihood she has no idea that someone is blogging about a common and relatively innocent interaction.

    You wrote in your letter “the world does not revolve around you and other people do not exist with the goal to make you happy.” Please keep in mind the world does not revolve around you or your daughter either. Nor does it revolve around my daughter and me. Others have desires and needs as well. Based on your narrative, I saw little evidence to indicate that this woman is self-absorbed. In fact it appears that she attempted to congratulate your family for also not embracing egocentrism; a compliment she could easily redact if she read your blog. You are correct to say that the world does not revolve around her, but in your letter you give her directions on how to compliment you so that she can function in your world.

    In a public restaurant it is reasonable for others to expect me to make every effort to prevent exorbitant outbursts from my child. It is also reasonable for us as parents to expect some judicious patience from other patrons.

    I understand that you are a blogger which means that you share thoughts with the entire world. Open letters have become a common instrument to express a complaint publicly. Complaining has always been an attempt to invite others to share in personal frustration. It may serve you well to give thought to two considerations prior to blogging;
    1. Is this thought profound enough to share?
    2. Is this a conversation that would more appropriately be addressed privately?

    I think that honest reflection of the second question would have prevented the publication of this blog.

    Respectfully,
    Jake Smith

    • Kylie Hastings July 7, 2014 at 11:39 am #

      Mr. Smith, While I appreciate your reading and involvement in our Mom’s Blog, I think you misunderstood my post. Let me address your questions, though I won’t be addressing them in order.
      “2. Is this a conversation that would more appropriately be addressed privately?” No, I don’t believe so. Our interaction lasted less than 10 seconds before she walked out the door, so I honestly couldn’t identify her if I was in the same room with her. I wrote this letter a week after the incident happened because I was still thinking about it constantly. This is not about the woman. It is concerning the idea that it is okay to ostracize parents of young children. Even if I did have a chance to privately converse with her about my feelings, I would still have written this blog post. You see, this is not some squabble between teens. I know the woman meant well, and I wish her no ill will. This is a greater issue, and what you did not see were all the women who came to me after reading it saying, “Yes! Thank you for saying what I have been thinking. I thought I was alone,” and, “Thank you! I always feel the pressure in public, I avoid restaurants because of it.” If I found a way to track her down, and speak with her privately, I would never have given a voice to the other parents who also felt as if they were only allowed to eat in public if their child was quiet. I would never have reminded the few childless people who read this that you cannot expect someone who still requires a diaper change to behave.
      “1. Is this thought profound enough to share?” I am a person, and my feelings are valid even if you disagree with them. What I, my editor, or other readers may find profound you may find tedious and unnecessary. Many people find The Scarlet Letter to be profound while I find it to be terrible. In this particular case, I gave other people a voice, however small.
      As far as your concern that I am being self centered in telling her how to speak to me to make me the most comfortable, I cannot control how others speak to me. She can speak to me as she pleases, and people can give me mean looks as my child wails in my ear in the grocery store, and negativity can be spread further. However, I am simply offering an alternative perspective and a different way of responding, which could make life a little easier for everyone. Would it not be more pleasant if everyone was a little nicer?
      Sincerely,
      Kylie Hastings

    • Tami October 19, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

      Yes! I’m so tired of open letters, as well as “What not to say to [fill in the blank]” lists. We don’t know how to deal with people anymore by either addressing the conversations head on with the actual person or just letting it roll off our backs.

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