Since this whole wedding thing is inching ever nearer, I have been looking into the future. Maybe it’s the upcoming date, maybe it’s seeing my own niece grow up – but, I’ve been really thinking about this whole “mom” thing right now. And observing very, very closely.
This weekend, we celebrated my birthday (because one day for a birthday, really? C’mon!) so we went to Panera, as we like to do. We haven’t been to the restaurant since living in the Midwest, so we were super excited to learn that there was one in Downtown Hoboken. We excitedly chittered and chattered after getting off the train. I was going to get broccoli and cheddar soup with a chicken panini. Nate: Samesies! Sometimes going to a chain restaurant can be pretty amazing because it tastes basically the same anywhere. Usually, we try to go to new places around here, but for Panera, we made an exception. I knew what I was getting, so that was pretty awesome.
There was an art festival going on downtown, so we expected the restaurant to be busy. We are pretty easy going, and there was lots of little kids running around, but we thought, “eh, we are in it for the food.” We plopped down at a booth and started talking about our upcoming marriage counseling session that night. Suddenly, a balloon slammed in my face. Heh. We were sitting in a small booth and across the room, a few couples had taken refuge at a few tables – eating with their many small children. They had lined up strollers and toys all around their space, making it impossible for other patrons to squeeze in at other empty tables, even though space was extremely limited. The couples were busy gabbing, not paying attention to any of the children who were running every which way, knocking into people carrying food and drinks. It was annoying, but we ignored the situation.
We continued to talk until an older woman approached the party table(s). She asked if they could move a stroller so she and her friends could sit at a table that was surrounded by all their stuff. The young couples looked around, startled that anyone would approach and interrupt their conversation. One blonde pony-tailed woman half-looked around and then said, “Um, no” and went back to her super important conversation. I was stunned. So was the older woman. They were taking up so much room, and couldn’t be bothered to be courteous.
While we were finishing our food, people were trying to walk down this aisle while these kids were twirling and dancing away in their path. “Excuse me,” adults said, squeezing by. The kids thought they were really cute when people tried to scoot by and they couldn’t because they had formed a road-block line. Super cute. Finally, one of the mothers decided it was time to discipline one of her children after ignoring them for so long. She took a little girl by the hand forcefully and screamed in her ear in a private space. Actually the private space was a half a foot from my face. I must have been invisible. I finally looked at her and said, “Excuse me, please.” She continued to ignore me.
Usually when we go to Panera, we like to sit and enjoy our coffee, read a bit or just catch up. Not today. When we were finished, we hurried with our coffee to go somewhere a little quieter. Like the crowded art festival.
In the land of Hoboken, there is a stereotype that is also pretty common in wealthier areas of NYC. Young, hip couples who are able to afford nannies. Whether both parents are working or not, it’s a common situation. These were definitely wealthy people who had the means for such an employee (by looking at their many purses, bags and fancy strollers). And although they were well off, I’m pretty sure these people lacked one major thing: Parenting skills.
I have done a lot of babysitting in my days, here and in the Midwest, and I’ve been around many families with small children. Kids can be unpredictable, can be fussy and scream and cry in a store, it happens. I don’t fault the couples who bring their small children to church, even though sometimes it might be best to leave them in the nursery. But there are some cases where children are spoiled with things, lots of things, but don’t receive what they actually need: Time and attention. They are allowed to behave how they want, and adults think this ill behavior is “cute” or “just acting their age.” I call it bratty. I call how the adults were behaving extremely bratty. What “cute” families!
Maybe it’s how I grew up, but I know we would never have been allowed to act that way. I know my niece and younger extended family members would not be able to act that way. And any adults that I know and actually like would never behave as the spoiled older adult children had behaved at Panera.
So I had a moment outside of the restaurant when we were walking to retrieve my birthday present from a store: Am I “mom material”? Was I being too harsh on these people that caused me to get a bit tense and stressed in their presence? I shook it off. No, I might be haughty in saying this, I just have standards when it comes to parenting. These people just didn’t stack up to the many parents I consider role models.
Since it was a marriage counseling day, I took this situation as another counseling session: These are the people I don’t ever want to emulate. I want to be a parent, I just don’t want to be a self-serving jerk who cares more for themselves than others. I’ll try :)