The Adventures of THAT Mama

A few months ago, my husband and I took our two boys, ages three and one, out to dinner. The baby sat in his high chair, laughing and babbling. My older son played the game “what’s missing from the table?” with us to while away the time until his food came (he always hides the salt). Both kids ate their meals. We talked. We laughed. No one screamed, threw food, or ran around the restaurant and hid under other people’s tables.

We were THAT family. You know, that one you read about on those stories that go viral: the family that gets a 10% discount for having “well behaved kids,” or hell, gets their whole meal comped, because the parents (unlike other terrible parents) know how to raise their children. Just read the comments under any of these viral posts, and you’ll see: kids used to know how to act in restaurants, and nowadays they are just horrible. At least there are parents like THIS who will keep our society on track! On that day, no one comped our meal or gave us a discount, but there were plenty of pleasant smiles and chuckles at my oh-so-cute children. Enough to convince me that I might be able to buy a VW bus and go touring the country as a family band.

It was a fluke.

I don’t know what happened on that magical day. No one had a particularly great night sleep and I’m pretty sure the baby had a cold. And to drive the accidental nature of that dinner home further, the next time we went to a restaurant, my kids were a nightmare. There was screaming, food-throwing, and laps around the restaurant. There were glares, stares and murmurs. By the time we got the bill, I was ready to just let the waitress keep my credit card and make a few extra purchases for herself just to make up for my family’s presence at the restaurant. Oh yes, we were THAT family.  The one that everyone gives as an example as “parents who can’t control their children.” “Parents who never taught their children how to act in a restaurant.” “Parents who are ruining it for everyone else.”  But how could I be? Wasn’t I the mom who had complete control over her kids just a few weeks ago?

The thing is, parents know the truth. No one has the perfect family. But no one has the horrific one either. Most of the time, we’re riding in the middle. We have good days and bad days. Some days are so breezy, you could even picture having another child. Some days are so rotten, you double count your birth control pills just to absolutely, POSITIVELY make sure you haven’t missed one. This certainly makes sense: the children are learning. The parents are teaching. But that doesn’t mean either one is going to get it right 100% of the time.

It’s wonderful to tell a mom whose kids are behaving beautifully “you’re doing a great job!” But it’s equally important and worthy of your time to tell a struggling parent the same.

I have a wonderful neighbor, the mother of 12-year-old twin girls, who always tells me what a great job I’m doing. She will say this even as my younger son is trying to ride her dog while my older son attempts to climb our drainpipe, because that’s when I really need to hear it. And I am so grateful for her vote of confidence that it inspires me to keep teaching my children, even when I think I cannot say “get down from there!” one more time.

For the record, my kids are usually just “okay” at restaurants. There are some tears or refusals to eat, but most of the time we get the job done with a modicum of decorum. We rarely have extremely good or extremely bad experiences. That’s probably why it’s so embarrassing to me when I become the “bad mom whose kids ruined everyone else’s beautiful restaurant/mall/museum/music class experience.” I know that my kids don’t usually act that way…of course, no one believes me as I sheepishly say this while dragging my toddler out the door by his feet.

But in order to keep teaching my children how to be human, I keep bringing them out into society with the knowledge that, some days, I’m going to be someone else’s example of ineffective parenting.  And some days, I’ll be the one that everyone smiles at or envies, because maybe, just maybe, my lessons are starting to sink in.

Because I’m THAT mom. And THAT one too. And both are deserving of a thumbs up.

Guest Mama Jill Z. is a mama and teacher from New Jersey. She lives with her husband and their two boys, ages two and four. She loves reading, painting and going out to eat…mostly. She is also the rockin’ mama who baked this cake! 

Are you a mama with something to share with us? Shoot us an email at info@mamasaywhat.com.

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