The One Hundred Dollar Migraine
The bill for us to dine tonight in one of the best restaurants in town was well over $100. It was an evening supposed to be spent in a quaint corner booth in the darker back rooms of a steakhouse, one of those places that always has an hour or more wait to get in. We had important adult things to discuss, some exciting news to share, and a few of us hadn’t seen each other in awhile. You can imagine my frustration when the baby at the table next to us fought his mother like an angry little tasmanian devil and screamed his bloody head off as he tried to claw his way out of his baby carrier.
His mom and dad tried everything. Rolls were buttered and thrown aside, sippy cups were dropped and retrieved, crackers were smacked away, crayons were tossed to the floor. In desperation, they even tried letting him play with their iPhone. He was one, maybe less, so you know what happened next. Their drinks went untouched because Dad spent his time plundering through the baby bag for anything that would work the Quiet Magic. Older Sister stood up in the booth and tossed toys onto his head. Then she spilled Dad’s drink as she reached over the table to help Mom dangle a squeaky toy, to no avail. Of course, the waiter was flustered by then, too, and our service essentially stopped because he had to clean up their new, huge mess.
Meanwhile, I’d been trying to tell a two-minute story for ten minutes and I couldn’t remember where I left off every time I tried to restart. We pressed on with determination. We wrinkled our faces at one another every time a shriek let out, then stopped ourselves from glancing over awkwardly (and judgmentally). We tried in vain each time to return to our conversation so we didn’t seem rude to those poor, suffering people.
But let’s be honest, what was rude was that this baby, quite frankly, was ruining everyone else’s dinner and we were suffering, too.
I know that’s not the compassionate thing to say. Believe me, I’m not trying to be cruel when I reveal out loud what many are thinking silently, and I’ve been where they were. In fact, the one conversation I was able to have, one that thankfully lightened our mood a bit, was in reliving the few times my husband and I took our squealing, arched-back toddler to the bathroom for exactly such behavior. (Hemingway’s at somewhere around age three is the particularly vivid and painful memory. Ben squirmed so hard in the high chair he actually got his own foot stuck inside his own diaper and we didn’t go back out to dinner for the next year.) It seemed to assuage my irritation to remind myself out loud that I had been them once, and I remembered that feeling of helplessness. Then, inevitably, another wail rattled the walls around us.
I returned to my condemnation of having small children in nice restaurants.
This went on for an hour. Mom and Dad also picked at their equally expensive food and certainly must’ve wondered why they ever thought it was a good idea to go out to dinner in the first place. Or maybe they didn’t. Either way, they never got up and left; they never surrendered. Perhaps that was the lesson they were trying to teach their child: You won’t outlast us. Crying won’t get you anywhere. Throwing a fit doesn’t get you what you want!
Well, Bravo! All of those are valuable things to teach a child for sure, but not in a nice restaurant where many other people have waited a long time and are paying a lot of money to try to enjoy a delightful meal.
I remember crossing over that night at Hemingway’s. I remember making that rule for our family right then and there, and we stuck to it until our child could be trusted in public.
I’d bet you some dessert that the nice couple with the mad baby paid over $100 for their meal, too, and didn’t enjoy a single bite of it, either. Nobody had fun. Nobody.
Nobody had anything but a migraine.