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I have 30 minutes to myself. I have just ended a full day at work, ran to the store to exchange something I’d bought over the weekend and I have 40 minutes until class starts. Hmmm….what to do?…what to do?

Oh! I know….a little bistro between here and there and a nice quiet dinner sounds just about perfect. So in I stroll, bag and a brand new, just for fun, book in hand, anticipating a few wonderful moments in time before heading into another full evening. As I open the doors I am hit squarely by the sounds of children. Not just chattery, laughing children. Loud children. Screaming  children. Running around, misbehaving children.  Hm…  stay or leave?

I choose to stay. I am fully aware that I chose to stay and I take full responsibility for my decision to do so. But in my defense I’ve been a mom and now a grandma of small humans, so I was thinking maybe these ones were just hungry, it was after all, dinner time. So in I go. As I stand at the counter waiting my turn to order I realize all this noise is coming from just one family; four boys under the age of probably five, a new baby girl, Mom and Dad. As I take in the scene I quickly note that the parents look to be about…oh, I don’t know, 23!

The mom is loudly and persistently calling the name John, which I soon realize is the toddler who is galloping around the restaurant. The other three boys are jumping up and down on the booth seats which they have chosen as their place to reside while they wait for their food and their parents. The pink, frilly baby in mom’s arms is wailing as if someone has pulled her legs off and oddly, dad seems quite oblivious to all of it as he nonchalantly examines the soda machine and cup options.

I sit down at a table as far from this tribe as I can, only to feel a rush of air as the toddler runs past me at the speed of light followed by the not so quick dad, hollering for him to stop but laughing and adding he is going to get him soon, which only encourages the toddler to keep running.

I begin to wonder why they came to dinner in the first place. I do a quick check down of my intolerance and wonder if this is a stay at home mom, who at this point has started nursing the baby girl, undraped, all the while still yelling “John”,  who just needed out of the house at any cost. I try to be open to the idea that this might be the only socialization she gets outside of pre-schooler’s and I tell myself to stop judging. Or maybe this was the couple’s date night, and a sitter would add too much to the budget, but at least they were out, together, right?

Then, much to my chagrin, lil’ John ends up under my table. Wiggling and wagging and laughing hysterically, while his parents sit obliviously across the restaurant. Mine is not the first table he’s crawled under nor am I the first patron whose dinner has been interrupted.  And all my self-talk about not judging and the poor, stay at home mom, catapults itself right out the window. I glare over at the parents who do not even recognize one of their brood is missing.  John’s laughter from afar finally triggers as the dad realizes, while using his fingers to count heads, someone had gone AWOL. John starts out from my table, and Dad, now heading my direction, gives me a ‘what can you do?’ look, to which I steadily return his eye contact with my, ‘this is really not ok’ look. He shrugs his shoulders and in the background I hear mom yell…”John!! Don’t eat the plants”.

I sigh and quietly flag a waitress who graciously puts my food in a to-go container and I end 40 minutes of what I’d hoped would be bliss, eating in my car while listening to Josh Groban, very, very quietly. And I can’t help but wonder if those parents think it was all worth it just to not have to eat macaroni and cheese again tonight.

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