(Today’s Author is Charlotte from MWM South Hams)
Taking two pre-schoolers anywhere is not for the faint hearted, there are very few places that I consider to be safe, non-judgemental environments and this is especially true where food is concerned. Mealtimes at home can be a challenge and mealtimes anywhere else can trigger a whole, colourful spectrum of emotions in everyone concerned. First there’s having to sit down for any length of time, then there’s the wait for food to arrive, then there’s the actual eating and/or rejection of food, then there’s the crazy time afterwards where, now refuelled with energy, the sitting and waiting are even more difficult because young children are slaves to their impulses. We’re really only trying to tame them after all.
We don’t eat out a lot and when we do it’s always early enough that they’re not over hungry or overtired to give us the best chance of survival. We stick to the same few places that we know serve early enough, serve food they like and have a family friendly approach. So at the weekend the stars aligned, the timing was right and we took our chance to eat out. We went to a safe place that was child friendly and it was their teatime, so late afternoon really. They were in pretty good spirits and not being too wild or noisy when we walked in and we were seated on a table between 3 couples. Within a few minutes one couple asked to be moved to another table. I wasn’t really aware of what was happening until my husband pointed it out, quietly saying “Looks like we’ve scared them off!”. I didn’t really think it was because of us at first, nothing had happened, we’d just arrived (although looking back at their expressions when we walked in, maybe that was itself the issue). Anyway, they quietly departed to the other side of the restaurant and I was relieved because everyone could now enjoy their meals without feeling uncomfortable. They did the right thing, children aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and they didn’t make a fuss or say anything to us, they just didn’t want to sit there so they moved.
However, when you’re already self-conscious about the extra noise and mild (or not so mild) chaos that children can deliver in any situation and when you spend all day, every day and sometimes nights, working really hard to take care of your family’s needs and try to train them to conform to meet your expectations while still making sure their feelings and impulses are recognised, it can feel a little soul destroying to realise that even when I think we’re on good form and it’s going well that other people still find us unpleasant enough to stop during their meal and go to the other side of a restaurant. There’s a spiral of self-doubt there I’ve dabbled in before and it can have unpleasant consequences!
So, I was considering all this, trying not to take it personally and failing a little bit whilst also quietly helping our oldest with his sticker book while my husband entertained our youngest when our food arrived. Hurray! We could eat and go back to our house where we can all relax and be ourselves. Along with our food, we received a note from the people behind us…it read “Your children are beautiful and have far more to offer the world than the people who moved x”. It was like they’d read my mind, they could see I was about to tumble into the vortex of shame and they threw me a very moving life jacket! Maybe they had found themselves in that very situation and knew exactly what to do. I intend to keep the note and maybe get it out when I need another life jacket. That small but very thoughtful act of kindness lead me to go home feeling I’d had a positive experience that night when it could so easily have been a negative one. We will continue to go out, I will work on my confidence, I will stop apologising for my children. They are beautiful (inside and out), they have so much to offer and they are, after all, still children, learning how to conform to arbitrary rules and expectations put upon them by society and hopefully questioning why they should.
Charlotte x x x