To the Stranger at the Restaurant: Parenting has Changed

I recently had a moment of parenting clarity that I am not sure any of us really ever “want,” but now I am trying to be thankful for a new view on my parenting style. First, the back story. My husband, 11 year-old-son, and 5-year-old daughter recently took my mother-in-law out to eat dinner at a local restaurant for her 60th birthday. This was a Monday night after both parents have been at work all day and our kids were at school, you may ask what we were thinking. I am not sure…somewhere throughout the day we thought it would be a good idea.

We had a relatively smooth dinner (or so I thought); my daughter and I worked on her letters and numbers on an app on my iPhone while waiting for the food. Sitting still at 5-years-old is difficult, and the wait was longer than her one minute limit. We played and laughed at the silly characters on the phone while the rest of the table visited a little. Soon the food came, we ate and talked about our days. Once we were done eating, it was close to 7:45pm which for us on a school night is close to bath and bed time, so I told my husband that I was going to take our daughter home to get her bathed and put to bed while he took my mother-in-law home. After saying our goodbyes, we left the restaurant.

Later on, I found out that shortly after my daughter and I left our table, the lady sitting next to our table then said, “She’s spoiled behind her Mama.” When my husband told me, I initially giggled because well I just didn’t want to really process what she was talking or respond in that moment. The more I thought about this comment though, the more angry it made me. 

To the Stranger at the Restaurant:

You, strange lady, have NO idea the amount of energy my daughter has to put forth to sit still, you have no idea that my daughter works very hard at school learning, or that we are displaced because of the flood and maybe just MAYBE we have to get up a little earlier and our routines are off. You know nothing about my family except for the past hour you have witnessed us sitting at the dinner table together. You see, there are numerous reasons that go into the parenting decisions I make on any given day. This particular day, I made the decision to allow my daughter to have some time to work on her letters and numbers while sitting in a restaurant. I chose to allow my daughter a little more freedom than apparently you would suggest, but this was my decision to make because I am her mama.

Sometimes, it is not worth the fight that will ensue if I choose to make my daughter sit still in a restaurant waiting for food. By the way, before you say that “my kids would have never questioned me,” let me tell you something: parenting has changed A LOT over the past 20, 30, 40 years or however long it has been since you have raised children. Your parenting style of forcing kids to be adults and “sit still” is what caused recess to be taken away at schools around the country  – ya know because we need structure for our children. Parenting has changed, Stranger! Instead of responding with judgement and harsh words, respond with grace. Parenting is hard. Why don’t you try to share your favorite thing that you did with your kids or how fun your child had in kindergarten?

I have NO desire for my 5-year-old to be treated like an adult. There are many other qualities I would like my kids to have. I hope to raise kids that show love, help their neighbor when needed and say nice things. I am ok with raising children that cannot sit still at a dinner table if this means they will grow into loving, accepting and helpful adults.

We all make decisions daily regarding what is best for our children. I would like to just ask next time you take a moment before making a comment about someone else’s parenting. You never know the battle that they have fought that day or what is normal for their children. My daughter was not bothering you or interrupting your dinner with your friends so the next time you want to say something, remember what I was always told,“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”img_3092

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