My girlfriend and I took our toddlers to Kindermusik today, which is hectic enough. Afterwards, every Tuesday, we have been having lunch at Applebee’s, which can prove to be equally challenging with two toddlers. I am usually very ready to get Celie into her car seat and pray that she falls asleep on the way home by the time we are done. She seldom is allowed down in the restaurant by herself. Frankly, she is mostly never allowed down by herself, even though she is very capable of walking. Today’s story is a great reminder as to why that is the way it is and has to be.
We had our meal, I had taken Celie to be changed in the bathroom, and my friend left for the car with her daughter saying she would see us out there when we were done. We returned to our table and I stood her down between my legs to put her coat on. (I do the traditional knee hold on her.) In gathering up her cup and diaper bag and my own items of wear, she slipped from my hold and ran up the isle toward the bathroom. I, in retrospect, delayed 5 seconds longer than I should have. It is these 5 seconds as well as the 5 to 10 words from the cook that led to me feeling like the absolute worst mother in existence for a brief amount of time. Okay, it has officially ripped the scab off of that permanent wound of utter failure that is always living inside of every mother, even when dormant.
I wanted one more sip of my ice water with lemon. One more. Is that too much to ask? Actually, Missie, as a mother, yes it is. Because she then slipped from my hold, ran up the isle, and hung a left at the bathrooms where I lost the sight of her head because of the divider. I was for a brief moment unaware of which direction she took. I was at full panic for a few seconds as I rounded the corner of the divider. It was either to the left past the registers or to the right into the kitchen. Stupid me hung left, telling the questioning server that I was looking for my kid with large deer in headlight border panic breakdown eyes. I then heard a cough I recognized as my daughter’s from the place I had hoped she didn’t veer into---the kitchen.
There are two open doorways into the kitchen at Applebee’s. Here’s some foreshadowing: there isn’t even a door. As I realized she had entered the kitchen I started to back step to head into the first doorway, at that moment a woman emerged from the left doorway with my child dangling from her arms, visibly distraught at this point (my kid, not the woman).
I don’t remember her exact words, as their meaning and my caring trailed off after it registered what her attitude and opinion was of. The first words out of my mouth were “I’m sorry…” The first words out of her mouth were “Do you realize all of the hot things that are back there and blah blah blah…” condescension. No, please tell me what a kitchen is and what possible dangers lay in it, because we don’t have one and I have absolutely no idea. I replied, calmly, “I’m sorry, but do you realize how quick a toddler is?” “Yes, actually, I have two...” more blah blah, I’m a better mother than you, you 18-year-old fedora slut, attitude. (I jest, but most times you REALLY CAN judge what people are meaning by the way they say things…the WAY you say something is very important. I knew what she was feeling, that was for sure.)
Anyway, apparently she is either the best mother in the world or her toddlers have no posterior limbs, because doesn’t every mother of a toddler understand how they can be?? WHY ARE MOTHERS SO NASTY TO EACH OTHER!?!? Cut me some slack. YES, I realize I am greatly in the wrong for delaying my wrangling efforts that 5 seconds for one more sip of ice cold lemon water for my frazzled dehydrated tongue. I’m not being sarcastic, I realize that was wrong because you don’t get the privilege of random sips of refreshing drinks at will with motherhood, you just don’t, but it was only maybe 10 to 15 seconds that she was in the kitchen, and I would have had her out in like 3 to 5 had I taken the right turn and not hung a left toward the registers!! Why didn’t any of the other servers who could stop to ask me what I needed, not stop her from heading in there, as they must have seen her round the corner? It’s not like I sent her back to make me a steak of something? Come ON! Apparently you are the best mother ever, Applebee’s worker, and your toddlers are made of gold, stationary gold.
I assume a lot of it was that I may come across as looking like I am 18 to 21 years old. I may look like I’m completely green, but don’t let the fedora, feathers and nose ring fool you. This lady was probably 5 to 10 years my senior and she had the attitude that I know absolutely nothing about child care and apparently kitchen ware. Not that age really matters in motherhood, I realize I am a new mother, and I realize there is a lot I don’t know, but don’t talk down to me like a lot of mothers do IN GENERAL to young in age mothers because you think I am very young. JUDGEMENT! Tell me again what dangers lay in the Applebee’s kitchen? If you’re going to be that way and act like things like this don’t happen in a place that allows children, then please…PLEASE…put a door on your kitchen and don’t have TWO very LARGE access points to it right beside the entrance to the bathroom. Let’s face it, toddlers eat. They’re going to be patronizing your restaurant. They’re going to be entering that bathroom. Things like this happen and I like to think I was filled with the proper amount of motherly dread and terror as I rounded that corner and didn’t see my daughter. PLEASE do not use your superior parenting skills and advanced age and rank in the Applebee’s kitchen to purposely make life more stressful for a fellow mom. Why are moms so mean to each other? Because we’re BITCHES! Because motherhood is hard! Because motherhood is TERRIFYING and you don’t know at any point in time that you are making the right decision. Because you are always on edge, waiting for someone to judge your way of parenting because deep down you are WORRIED THAT YOU ARE WRONG!! Deep down there is a place inside of you where you are worried that you are a BAD MOTHER every second of your day! Welcome to Motherhood.
At the end of this experience I was left feeling like a shitty ass mother. I felt so horrible for those 5 seconds, because when it comes down to it, I KNOW BETTER. You can’t hold on to a spirited toddler’s hand enough to control them without breaking it; it’s like like trying to walk a terrier on a leash of cooked spaghetti. I know how fast Celie is and I know why I don’t let her down in restaurants, but I find it hard to believe that no child has ever entered that kitchen on a pass through. Hell, I’m pretty sure my mother has walked into a kitchen trying to find the bathroom. SHIT HAPPENS! I also find it hard to believe that lady has had a handle on her kids every second of their existence. I simply walked away when she started the whole “Yes, actually, I have two and...” where she was then going to go into some other words of wisdom and advice and correction. Well, lady, if that’s true, then why be such a bitch? I understand that you are probably stressed out and tired from work, and you may even be generally concerned about the well being of my child, which was my primary concern as I was trying to fetch her. Hey, life is hard. But women are not going to advance themselves any farther by being so snippy and judgmental with each other. Thank you for representing the part of my psyche that does completely agree with you and acknowledges that this was entirely my fault as a mother, but as a mother, please…could you develop some empathy? Haven’t you had one of those days? When you have chased for hours and just want a sip of lemon water? Haven’t you had a few seconds when they just slipped away from your control? I’m well aware of the dangers of a kitchen, thank you very much. I have worked in the food industry; I have a small version of one at home as well. Nobody was more terrified or concerned when my daughter entered that kitchen than I was. Thank you for making it even harder as a mother to do the right thing. Thank you for being that mother, “That Mother” that makes my girlfriend and I loathe and detest play groups and mother functions where they gather. Thank you for judging me to be unfit in a matter of seconds with the tone of your voice. And congratulations, because you are, therefore, better than I am. You are “right”. Isn’t that the hopeful end result of meanie mom logic?
From a fellow mother, would it have been too much for that empathetic smile, and a word TO MY DAUGHTER about the dangers of the kitchen and not me?? In an age appropriate way?? So as to help be the village and learn HER of the dangers? I would have even taken a “you should know better” look from you if you had done that. I forgot all about correcting her behavior for running away from me in the first place because I was too busy calling you a bitch on my way out the door! I was so worked up trying to find her, then I got Dr. Toddler jumped when I found her, I was a mess the whole drive home. “Stop yelling at me!” my girlfriend says. I was obviously heightened and complaining loudly, it was a miracle the girls fell asleep in the back seat.
Really, Applebee’s? Here’s a thought, put a swinging door on your kitchen if it’s like Louis III’s dungeon back there! But, honestly, thank you for the condescending direction, because I don’t know about you, Applebee’s cook with two toddlers, but I am a reflective human being, and I will take this experience and try to learn from it. Maybe you should do the same. There really is a chance that you were unaware the way you approached things could have been different, and therein lays the problem with mothers connecting. Instead of recognizing that part that is similar inside of us all you chose to go the ol’ yes I have kids therefore I know how to wrangle yours, do you even know what a kitchen is? route. Thank you for mirroring my motherly doubts and further perpetuating the cycle of indifference and judgment among women. You worked me up into a tizzy. I’m going to go vomit and cry now.