Our family of four sat at a table, partaking in “kids eat free” night at a local restaurant.
When she walked in.
A mother, close to me in age. A boy around five or six and a girl around age two walked next to her. She pushed a stroller, an infant seat clicked into place as it cradled a three to six month old.
Except for the children, she was alone. No spouse. No friend. It was simply her and her three children.
My jaw might have dropped as I imagined myself in the same scenario.
Surely, she had to be insane.
That night my daughter attempted to grab anything within reach, gnaw on it, then fling it to the floor. She screeched at the high chair confinement and I pulled several toys out of the diaper bag while we waited for our food. Both children required games of train table traversing to entertain them.
Lil Diva ate her crayon.
This was a “good night”, because Lil Diva loves pancakes. She didn’t pitch a fit during the meal at us for daring to serve a food she’d loved the day before that was now no longer fit to grace her plate.
But the second she finished eating, she wanted free. She wanted to run. To steal the knives off the tables.
My eyes glanced at the woman and her children from time to time as a tiny wave of jealousy slammed into me.
The older boy sat. Quietly. He didn’t climb under the table or stand on his chair. He colored.
The toddler was also quiet, strapped into her high chair. She didn’t scream, or fling items to the floor, amused to see her mother pick them up. She didn’t try to stand and escape, then explode with anger when such freedom was denied.
The baby slept, waking shortly before we left. He didn’t fuss the instant he opened his eyes, pissed off with the reclined view and demanding to be upright. He didn’t force his mother to remove him, much less require constant holding or pacing to quiet the screams. He didn’t pitch a fit until she carried him outside in desperation.
The baby sat, trying to reach his toes. Smiling.
Dining out with my children as babies involved one of us strapping on the carrier, and walking around (typically outside) to cease the screams.
My husband left with children in tow, the darling Lil Diva refusing to sit any longer. I waited for the bill and tried to block how perfectly behaved the woman’s children were.
And wondered, where did I go wrong?
Have you ever experienced “parental envy” in public? If so when?