Dear Everyone: I’m Kind of Scared of Restaurants

posted in Family Outings, Parenting Challenges on by with 7 Replies

Dear Everyone Out in Public:

Hi.  I’m Kate.  I have three small children and I’m scared to death to take them out to eat in a restaurant.

See, I’m a pretty good mom.  I’m far from perfect, but I read to my kids, I tell them not to yell or put their feet on the table, and I don’t let them watch too much TV.  I care about the kinds of people they are becoming.

They’re pretty good kids.  But they’re almost three, so they can be messy, screechy, surly, whiny, and sweet, often all at the same time.  They talk back.  They interrupt.  They sometimes refuse to say “please” or “thank you” for no discernible reason.  They’re learning.  That’s their whole job right now, and they learn by doing.  Testing.  Trying.  Pushing the limits and pushing my buttons and pushing each other.  It’s what kids do.

So what I’m asking of you is to try your hardest to refrain from judging me and my parenting for the hour or so you’ll see of it when I haul my big, unruly family to a restaurant so my little girls can have a treat for their birthday.  They stay home a lot.  It’s not their fault that it’s a lot of work just to get them all out the door and into the car.  They may whine and fuss about something ridiculous, or spill their milk and glue a placemat to the table with syrup.  Those things are de rigeur for pretty much all of our mealtimes.  They don’t mean to annoy you.  They don’t mean to be too loud.  I try to teach them manners the very best that I can, but it’s a process, and they’re still figuring it out.

I want you to know that I am filled with anxiety at the prospect of taking all of them out to a restaurant because we will be on display, set up to be judged by the clientele who are trying to enjoy their mimosas and eggs in peace.  I promise not to let them run around, or throw food, or have a temper tantrum in the middle of the floor.  I’m just saying please, please don’t think I’m a bad parent if I bribe them with little packets of jelly.  Or if I can’t keep them especially quiet.  Or if I make empty threats out of desperation just to get through this outing without any disasters.

Maybe you think I’m being paranoid, and you could be right, but let me just say this: It feels like everyone in the world, whether or not they have children, thinks they know how to parent.  Everyone thinks they have the right to judge and criticize parents on the job they’re doing, often based on no more than a few minutes’ observation while the parent and children are out in public.  And yeah, I get it.  Some parents suck.  For sure.  But so many of us are trying really hard to be good at it, even though we know how impossible that can sometimes be.  Parenting is a difficult job that goes on and on and on.  Just when you think you’ve got something figured out, the whole game changes, and you have to come up with a new strategy.  Kids are great, they really are.  But they’re also exhausting.  And demanding.  And infuriating.  And sometimes, in spite of all of that, they deserve to get out of the house and do something special, even if they haven’t fully mastered manners.

I’m not a doctor.  I’m not an electrician.  I’m not a hairstylist or a game warden or an administrative assistant.  If you are any of those things, I won’t judge you on how well you do your job, because I have no idea what it’s like to do your job.  It’s actually pretty easy for me not to judge you because you don’t generally have to practice medicine, or wire up a building, or highlight someone’s hair out in a public space, with an audience.

My job is being a parent.  I have to do it anywhere my kids are, weekdays and weekends alike.  If I take them out in public, I have to do my job in public, and that puts me in a pretty vulnerable position.  So please just be kind.  Be open-minded.  Realize that you have no idea what it just took for me to get my children and myself out of the house, on time, in a state of appropriate dress and cleanliness.  Maybe you could do a better job of it, but also maybe not.

Thank you for your patience and your kindness, and for realizing that I’m trying to raise people who will be patient and kind, but may not totally get it yet.


A tired mom who would like to take her little girls out for pancakes on their birthday

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  • You’ve said this so beautifully that I’m sympathizing with you, and at the same time, feeling guilty of complaining about eating out with my ONE toddler!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Hey, eating out is hard with ANY toddlers. And I’m happy to report that my girls did a really good job at the restaurant 🙂

  • Old Dog, New Tits

    I just got back from Disney World with my kids. During the trip, as I was walking through the “countries” of EPCOT, I watched a woman and daughter walking next to me. I don’t make it a practice to eavesdrop but she made it pretty difficult to look away. She got about an inch from her child’s face and yelled, “Shut the F–k up! You’re going to eat whatever everyone else in the f–king family is eating and like it. Okay?”

    I heard it. My children heard it. And, most importantly, her child heard it. I wanted to throw her verbally abusive ass into the manmade lake. But I knew that if I said anything I would likely only make it worse for the little girl. Still, if that’s what this mother does in PUBLIC …. oh, that poor baby.

    My point? For the record, when I see someone in your position, I do not judge. I’ve been there before myself. It’s a trying time. And you’ve got lots more of them in the future. If anything, I offer a knowing glance, a compassionate expression, even an I-feel-your-pain gesture. But I will never judge you.

    I will, however, judge the shut-the-F-up lady. She might need a little extra help.

    Thanks for linking up with #KetchupWithUs. Please come back and see us again on the 15th.

    • ShakespearesMom

      Oh how awful. Some people just don’t deserve to be parents. You must have felt sick inside.

  • Radio Chick

    I totally “get” this! I have to tell you, my family was on a plane heading to Florida last summer (my son was 6 and my daughter was 2), and it was the first time the kids had been on a plane. Well, my 2 year old daughter screamed a little on the way there (she didn’t like being strapped in), and A LOT on the way back. She screamed all the way through the safety instructions, and I could hear the nasty comments and grumblings of the other passengers. I felt helpless…and JUDGED. I wanted to say, “Hey, I get that you’re disturbed, but how do you think this poor little 2 year old feels? She’s scared. She’s now so upset she’s going to throw up. Thanks for your impatience and lack of empathy.” But I kept my mouth shut, and eventually the airline attendants told me and my husband that we could just hold her, which calmed her down. Now I don’t want to go back on an airplane for a long time. Boo.

    • ShakespearesMom

      I don’t know what people expect parents to do on a plane. Your kid is scared. You’re doing the best you can to calm her down, and it’s not like you can go anywhere. It’s so hard to travel with kids as it is. It’s too bad people had to be so nasty. I’ve yet to take my kids on a plane, and I’m not sure when I’ll be ready for that challenge. Thank you for reading and commiserating!

  • Jessica Williams

    The only instance I ever judge another parent is at times a previous commenter talked about, verbally abusive parents, or the #1 issue I always come across, is not watching their children. As an example, today, I walked into a store and was doing a little shopping as usual. There was a woman on her phone talking loudly doing ‘shoulder technique’ and looking at things on the shelves. Her little boys were dragging toys off the shelves and leaving them in the floor. One was about 2 and chewing an unopened pack of gum. I just smiled at the boys and kept walking. 4 isles down I looked to see if what I needed was down there…lo and behold the boys were not her only kids. A little girl all by herself also destroying shelves. Huge pet peeve it drives me absolutely insane. But if I see a child crying or getting upset, I don’t judge. All kids cry or show out in public at one point or another. I try to shrug it off when my daughter gets upset and people stare. She’s practically still a baby (15 months). I just look at them like move along nothing to see here!