(Disclaimer: This post is personal, doesn't include much of my "beautiful" or "happy" images, but it is my family, my opinions, and my reaction to others. You don't have to agree or like it, you don't have to read it, but I hope you do.
I had an experience on vacation with my family that to this day, I still didn't know how to address. I feel like writing this open letter may help me move on, shed light to others who may not understand and to also have others relate to my experience.
Always remember, once you've said something-once it's escaped your lips, you can't take it back. Everything that is spoken out loud has an affect on someone who has heard it. Think before you speak, and don't judge before you know the whole story.
With that said, please read and enjoy!)
Until our brief interaction, I didn't even notice you were sitting a few booths away from us with your three lovely friends. I didn't hear your conversation, or notice if you enjoyed the delicious food. I didn't see if you smiled or laughed, I don't know how your day went. All I do know is this: As I passed your booth holding my frustrated toddler's hand as he let his legs go limp, I glanced your way with a little smile on my face. Usually, when I pass older women, they smile back. They wave a little wave to my littlest. They crinkle their nose and say, "oh these days will pass and he'll be grown before you know it." But you ... you were different.
I looked to you for sympathy. I looked to you for a pat on the back. I looked to you for some encouragement. But all you gave me was shock. All you said, with a straight face, was "Thanks for ruining our dinner."
I was taken aback. I let out a small laugh as I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know if you were joking or not. I don't know, maybe you have a really dry sense of humor that I don't understand. Or ... I don't know if you were just being cruel.
You see, when a child misbehaves, especially a toddler who doesn't talk or comprehend the concept of patience, it doesn't mean the parent is to blame. Not always. Yes, my toddler squeals. Yes, sometimes it's ear piercing. Yes, it isn't predictable. And no, I don't make him do it. No, I don't pinch him. No, I don't purposely bring a grumpy child to a restaurant. No, I don't enjoy it. Yes, I'm aware of the stares. Yes, I know it's annoying. No, I don't know how to stop it.
When children don't know how to communicate, they are going to do what ever it is that gets their point across. For my toddler, it is now screaming. I am teaching him baby sign language so we can break some sort of barrier of communication. He knows "thank you," "please," "eat," "drink," and we are working on "sorry" and "blanket." But he's one and a half. He is taking one day at a time. He has a very good big brother that takes his title seriously. His big brother caters to him as any big brother should. Why talk when you have a big brother?
Is that the right way to parent or teach your child to communicate? Maybe not. But it works for us for the time being. Would I like my toddler to speak? Yes, of course I would! It would make my days much easier if he could just tell me what he wants, what hurts, and I would really love to hear "i love you" come from his mouth. But it hasn't happened yet, but we are working towards it. He is only one and half.
I don't know if you've experienced motherhood. And if you have, I know for certain that it has been several years since you've had to deal with a toddler. But because of what you said, I'm sure your child or children never misbehaved. I'm sure they sat on their bottoms at the dinner table and spoke only when spoken to. I'm sure they used proper manners and were quick learners. They walked at 6 months and said full sentences by 11 months. I'm sure they never squealed or screamed and they never hit, bit, or threw a tantrum - publicly or privately. I'm sure they napped when they were supposed to and ate all their veggies. When they graduated school, they had straight A's and were on the dean's list. I'm sure they are working well-paying jobs that matter and I'm sure they married well-mannered partners while raising well-mannered children who are going to follow in their parent's footsteps. I'm sure of all these because of how you treated me and my family at that Fredericksburg restaurant.
We were here for the same reason you were ... vacation. Time to spend with people we love. Time together. You see, daddy was away for training ... for a month. We missed daddy and decided to visit him near where he was training. What was he training for? For a pending deployment in which he will serve overseas protecting our country. Keeping this country safe.
We are good parents. At least, that's what I believe. We keep our children fed and clothed. We keep their best interests in mind and create memories with them. See this sleeping toddler? We timed this tour just right ... nap time so that our trolley companions could hear the tour guide. We timed this for the convenience of others. We timed this so that we wouldn't be judged.
See the below picture? This was AFTER nap time. See? Sometimes you are just grumpy. Sometimes it just isn't meant to be a happy day. Maybe that is why you said what you said. Maybe you were having a grumpy day. Maybe you weren't happy with how your vacation was going. But maybe you should have kept that to yourself and your group instead of assuming it was someone else's fault you weren't happy.
Let me tell you of the day we met you. It was the day before Memorial Day. We wanted to take the train to Washington D.C. to visit some friends in Arlington. Well, you see, apparently Fredericksburg's transportation doesn't work on the weekends? So, an hour after we wanted to depart, we were loaded up in the car and drove the hour to D.C. instead. See, we roll with the punches.
Even though I wanted to visit the WWII memorial and the other memorials at the National Mall, I knew our boys were tired and sweaty. I knew they wouldn't make it much longer, so we rode the Metro back to the car and headed back to Fredericksburg. Both slept on the way back. When we arrived back, it was dinner time. This is where we would meet up with you. This is where your support would have come in handy. This is where understanding would have given us hope.
The restaurant wasn't fancy, but it wasn't a fast food place that caters to children. It wasn't quiet as there was a big party in the far corner who were drinking like fish. It wasn't pricey and it didn't have fine china. It was a family restaurant and it suited our needs. We ordered the kids their meals first and the kind waitress even gave us crackers to help with the anxious toddler on our hands. You see, in between his squeals, he may have taken a few bites of his PB&J ... but he's picky and unpredictable. Sometimes he likes sandwiches sometimes he doesn't. He doesn't have a favorite go-to for meals, it's kind of a game of roulette when it comes to meal time for him. That evening, we chose wrong.
Yes, he screamed. No, he didn't scream constantly. Yes, the screams were ear piercing and uncalled for. But no, contrary to what you may believe. We don't like hearing the screams either. You see, if I could make him stop. I would. But sadly, at the moment, I can't. Yes. We are those parents, with the screaming child. No. We don't want to be those parents. And yes. This too shall pass ... but for now, we have to manage.
The service wasn't slow, but it wasn't super fast. I mean, who wants to go to a sit-down restaurant and be rushed? No one. But the waiters were friendly and they made sure we were comfortable. As we waited for our check, our waiter was pulled aside by the large group and our toddler didn't appreciate the wait -- especially since the food was boxed up and the toys were packed in the diaper bag. We were ready to go. He began to get impatient ... and get this, out of courtesy for you and the other customers, I took the boys outside. And this ... this was when I encountered you. As I waited outside for my husband to pay the check, your words replayed in my head the entire time. I asked my husband if he had heard what you said to us, but he hadn't and said, "I wish I had." You see, he's a quicker thinker than I am. But I suppose it's best that only I heard you, because our encounter probably wouldn't have been so quick. But alas, the event is long gone and I am here, writing you an open letter.
I'm sorry, you feel that your meal was ruined. But I'm not sorry for the anger I have towards you. I'm pretty sure you don't remember us, but I remember you. Just remember, don't judge before you know the whole story ... or how about this, don't judge at all. I hope the rest of your vacation was enjoyable, as our vacation was one of the best ones we've had. My eldest learned a lot and found a new love in the Civil War. My youngest took in all the sights and my husband and I actually had the chance to relax and enjoy ourselves. Family vacation was a success and I can't wait till our summer road trip.
Hopefully this opens your eyes and reminds you of your children and how you dealt with them. Not every child is the same and not every child needs the same love. Every mother knows best and knows the best way of handling a situation ... until it's your child throwing himself on the floor of the ER crying because he doesn't feel good and the doctors are swamped and taking to long.
You see, I actually have people who think I'm doing the right thing. And think my parenting skills are up to par. I love being a momma, but it's not always fun. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. Sometimes you can't make your kid happy and the only thing you can do is let them get their frustration out and then continue on your way.
You see... he's not always unhappy. He's actually one of the happiest kids I know. He really is. I love him, his giggles, his screams, and everything that comes with him. He's mine, and I don't care what you think of him. Because after I sign this letter, I'll be over your comment and I will continue loving my children the best I can.
The Overtired Momma who couldn't think of this response sooner
*** Please remember that all images are copyrighted to Sharilyn Wells Photography, LLC. Please do not copy or alter any images without SWP, LLC consent. ***
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