Today was the worst dining experience of my life. We decided to spend our last day of absolute freedom (Matt's classes start Monday) in Riverdale at the splash pad. We haven't been in forever. Phillip loves water. And I am thinking they close it around labor day, but could be wrong. It seemed like the perfect thing for a nice Saturday. We got into town around lunch time so we decided we'd have lunch at Applebee's before the park. We have restaurants we will and will not go to with our kids in tow. Applebee's is on the kid safe list. It is normally a rather noisy environment and has sports and such playing on TVs at all times. It was actually a rather decent day for Phillip. He didn't throw any tantrums. He got a little upset we couldn't just leave to play in the water instead of eating first. He was by a window so he would spot things he like outside and tells all about them excitedly. He was a little loud. He doesn't quite understand the whole inside/outside voice thing yet, but like I said Applebee's isn't a quiet restaurant so I didn't see it as a huge deal. He would get up and jump on the bench. We'd sit him back down and he'd be ok for a while. We waited FOREVER for our food. Matt and I were getting antsy with how long it was taking. I can only imagine how much torture it was for Phillip. We finally got our food. Phillip would eat a few bites then find something to look at or stand up to look at the old ladies behind us.
I was almost finished with my food when he stood up, turned around, and the old self-righteous bat boozing it up at noon got nasty. I don't remember exactly what she said. I was in total shock when I realized she turned around to totally bash my parenting. It was something along the lines of how ridiculous our kid was being and how we should think twice about taking him out to lunch with us. I calmly turned around halfway through her rant. I decided from that point on Phillip could do whatever the heck he wanted for the very short remainder of our lunch. As I finished the rest of my lunch fighting back tears I thought of probably a million different things to say to her. She continued to make comments to her even older lunch buddy AND the people across the aisle from us. I was so mad and really hurt. We couldn't get out of that place fast enough. Phillip had moved to sitting beside Matt and he can see I'm upset and is asking "what's wrong, mommy." Matt answered for me telling him "old ladies are rude, that's what's wrong." Toddlers are HARD! They have so much energy and are so excited about the world. That translates into an inability to sit still, inappropriate voice levels, and exploration of every kind(translation: they get into everything they shouldn't). I try so hard to keep Phillip in check. Her words were like a sucker punch. Maybe I'm not doing the best. Maybe my son is an insane annoyance to everyone around. Do people look at us and think we are horrible parents? After taking the time to look at this entirely about myself I started thinking about this situation as a whole. This woman knew absolutely nothing about us. What if our situation had been special? A million different scenarios of how she could have really severely hurt someone played out in mind. What if my child were special needs? I can't believe someone could be so rude about lunch at Applebee's. It's not like we took our kids to a nice steakhouse or even Olive Garden. I chose not to say anything at all to the lady. I was wishing after we left that I had said something to make her understand how incredibly rude she was being. After a few hours of thinking, I realized nothing good would have come of anything I said to her. She was too old and shriveled for anything to sink in.
Hours later I am still in shock about what happened. We have gone out to eat several times here in Evanston with Phillip being much worse than he was today, and no one has ever said a word to us. In fact, just yesterday we were grocery shopping and he was throwing an absolute tantrum. Matt had to pick him up and he was kicking and screaming. A sweet lady came up to us. She was shopping with her daughter and told us her daughter had a boy who was exactly like that and is now a perfect gentleman so there is hope. It was such a nice gesture. It is so hard raising a toddler. You spend most of the day at your wits end and the rest realizing how worth it it all is. It was so nice to have someone, especially a complete stranger give you pat on the back. A little encouragement. So if you are out and about and ever see a young mother struggling say a kind word. You cannot imagine how much it will lift her spirits especially if she has a trying little one!
As I put Phillip to bed tonight I took an extra minute to love him. I love the mess out of that little boy no matter how crazy he is. I love his craziness. I love watching him learn and grow. I love watching him get so excited and how he is learning to care for others. Today I vow to try a little harder to let him be a toddler. To not get so worked up over ALL the little things he does throughout the day. I don't want him to ever NOT be excited about life. The manners will come eventually. I think nice little reminders of how to act appropriately for the setting are much more appropriate for a toddler than insisting perfection. You'll only end up overly frustrated. And here's to hoping I do not encounter mean old ladies on a regular basis!