It was a Sunday afternoon. We had just been seated at a restaurant where I told the hostess I wanted three kids’ menus even though our children are clearly not all under the age of ten simply because we wanted the cheaper deal and to be honest, they don’t know how to cope while out to lunch without crayons an a menu to color.
The place was fairly crowded, and we weren’t the only large family looking not to be cooking at home that day. There was the usual restaurant chatter that one would expect: the older couple who ate in total silence except to get refills on their decaf coffee, the table with the awkward teen who stared between the window and his phone, the group with multiple tables pushed together with high chairs and a crying baby.
As a mother, I have learned many things, some completely out of necessity. In order to keep an ounce of sanity in my life, I have developed over the years the ability to block out certain sounds. I can block out cartoons. I can block out backseat bickering. I can block out lists of questions and stories that aren’t questions and the singing that some of my kids do while they are in the bathroom.
But crying babies, well, that’s a different story.
I’m pretty sure it is instinctivly wired in my body, but in a room full of talking people and sports on TV, my ears perk up whenever I hear a baby cry. And when that baby keeps crying, even if it’s not my own, I start to get that antsy mom feeling when I just really want someone to pick him or her up and I find myself rocking back and forth in my own seat. Meanwhile, my teenage kid nibbles her chicken fingers and I have flashbacks to those awful days as a young parent when she would not stop crying.
I remember those days all too well, even though my subconscious has done a great job of blocking them out. I remember the feeling of holding her and begging her to stop crying while I was sweating and fending off judgemental looks from other customers. I just wanted a hot meal that someone else cooked and to not have to do the dishes.
So to those parents of crying babies in restaurants, I understand. I commiserate. If I wasn’t a total stranger and if it wouldn’t be so creepy, I would volunteer to bounce your baby around the whole restaurant so you could enjoy a peaceful meal because I’ve been there. And believe it or not, I promise these days will pass and as crazy as it sounds, you will miss these days when just a funny face, a full belly, and a clean diaper will make them smile.
But until then, hug and hold and soothe your baby as best you can. A middle aged woman rocking back and forth while eating a hamburger is not a pretty thing.
Originally written 11.15.15