Where Did I Go Wrong?

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 Tackler will sit still for frozen yogurt.

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?

About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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20 Responses to Where Did I Go Wrong?

  1. Oh yes. I have.
    Same scenario in a restaurant.
    I could have just died right then and let the earth swallow me up.
    I avoided making eye contact with her for fear of receiving either “the pity” look, or “the smug” look.

    • Ahhhh, yes. Those looks. Although my personal favorite is the “if you cannot control your children don’t leave the house with them” look.

      Honestly, my son is now quite good when we dine out (unless over tired). It is my daughter who rebels against the high chair, wanting her own seat so she can run amok at will, then pitching a fit if she doesn’t get her way.

      She’s the one who loves a food for a week, then tosses it to the floor the next.

      I’m really hoping she’ll outgrown this phase by two, after she finally gets the last set of molars.

      Neither child has post dinner patience…

  2. I try never to look around. It’s too intimidating a thought.

  3. stace8383 says:

    Whenever I feel that sort of envy, I remind myself that those other kids are probably medicated… LOL

  4. TheKirCorner says:

    oooh I am very jealous of this too, because it has NEVER been easy to take my sons out to eat and she was alone with 3 children, WOW.

    I often wonder what kind of bribes they use. 😉 LOL

  5. Annie says:

    I’ve been on both sides of that scenario…me alone with four kids eating peacefully and civil. Then at other times it’s completely mind melting. It all depends if taz is well rested or not. Some kids are just more lively :). Taz has embarrassed me big time on many occassions!

  6. Trish Loye Elliott says:

    I agree with Annie. Sometimes my kids are angels and I feel blessed. Mostly they’re just normal kids who are insane if they’re tired, hungry or bored. Don’t feel bad we’ve all been there!

    • Too true: the insanity caused by the terrible trio of being tired, hungry or bored.

      Heaven help us if they’re more than one.

      It’s why we eat at a lot of places that have bread. Or chips.

      And we order when the server greets us, as I assure them, “Trust me, we only have so long they will sit without food.”

  7. Liz McLennan says:

    I like going out to eat with my kids, because we don’t do so often and because it’s such a treat. They’re mostly good but it’s likely I’ve firmly lectured them – fingewagging and all – in the car before going in. I am so fierce about it, I assume they’re usually a teensy bit afraid of me. And I’ve had to leave a restaurant because one of them was acting up, they know I’ll do it, so they tend to simmer down quickly if I whip out the “Shall we leave?” threat.

    To offer you a different perspective, this is usually what *I* think, when dining out – alone as always – with my kids:

    ” I’m glad we’re here in a place where someone other than ME is dishing food out and wiping up the aftermath. But I wish my husband was here, like hers is. He’s so good with the kids, they’re delightful and cute and he’s trying so hard. They make a great team. Where did we go wrong?”

    • Sadly the “Shall we leave?” threat will not work on the one who needs it: Lil Diva.

      And honestly, when I’m hungry, if we leave without food, it’s going to make matters much much worse.

      I can see where my children get it from…

      We eat out way too much. But it’s too hot to cook here.

      Besides. My oven is broken.

  8. Kid id says:

    Yup – been there. I’m sure it was a very good day for that woman which is why she ventured out on her own. I’m sure she has many other days when her children are seriously crazy.

  9. It’s definitely possible that she dines out with her children often – which would explain the fact that they acted as if this were routine, behaved calmly and did not act like heathens.

    We ate at restaurants very very very rarely when our kids were young so they didn’t develop good restaurant “manners.” At home, they were decently behaved; but the minute we went out, they were overstimulated, showing off and CRAZY!!!

    So I’m going to move forward from this post assuming you provide lovely meals at home with for your children inspiring a bond and routine and memories they will carry with them into their own families.



    Either that or Yeah.
    Those lady’s kids were on meds and we’re the normal ones.

    Yes, that.

  10. I cannot comment. I have but one Monkey. He was outnumbered from the start.

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