Our three-year-old must have been going through some kind of past-life storming the beach at Normandy trauma while her mother, brother and I were trying to eat.
We were in public … at a busy restaurant.
The Girl jumped out of her chair, ran to the booth behind us, screamed, bounced on the seats, and said “hi” to a really nice couple too polite to give us dirty looks. My wife and I just sat quietly, ate our dinner, and wondered if we’d ever be able to come back to that restaurant.
“She’s acting crazy,” our five-year-old boy said.
Why, yes. Yes she was. Even before my wife and I had children, we knew this wasn’t how they were supposed to act. But, after our little clones grew into their own personalities, our parameters for what counted as “acceptable” public behavior got really, really wide.
Before Kids: Children will remain seated and say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” in polite, quiet tones.
After Kids: Restaurant night out is like going to a professional hotdog eating competition, full of screaming, cheers and food shrapnel. As long as parents have five semi-uninterrupted minutes to cram down their food, they consider it a pleasant dining experience. However, tasting that food is a luxury. I don’t think I’ve eaten restaurant food slowly enough to taste it in five years.
Before Kids: Children will remain seated quietly in the basket, never grabbing candy off the shelves or begging for a $4 box of cereal just because they want the prize.
After Kids: Run, scream, push your sister into the produce sprinkler, eat that handful of grapes, take food out of other people’s carts. Whatever. If we get out of the grocery story without a bill for destroyed property, it’s a good trip.
Before Kids: My child will hold my hand throughout the zoo, ask plenty of questions about flora and fauna, and will get fruit instead of candy.
After Kids: Is that little Joey in the lion enclosure? I hope the lions are OK.
Before Kids: I’d never consider taking my child to an age-inappropriate film and when I do take him to a movie, he’ll sit quietly and use the bathroom when I tell him to.
After Kids: I don’t think they make G-rated movies anymore. Hey Brittany, sit down and stop dancing for that couple behind us. You missed the dinosaur eating that guy’s head.
Before Kids: While I wait for my doctor’s appointment, I’ll engage my children in activities I brought from home, like coloring, looking quietly at books, and algebra.
After Kids: Billy, I think that lady you’re climbing on has tuberculosis. Turn your head when she coughs. Oh, and maybe you’d better drink this bottle of Purell.
Of course, I got all the “After Kids” examples from my wife. She said she lost her Parent of the Year Award eligibility months ago. I think I’m still in the running, until we eat out again.
Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt
Jason’s latest book, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at amazon.com.