My mom comes over from across the bay to visit DJ at least once a week. It’s always a really special time for the three of us – three generations of strong, independent, adventurous, and really fun (if I do say so myself) girls. Sometimes we have exciting plans like building sandcastles at the beach, and sometimes we don’t have any plans at all. No matter what, we always have a great time.
Last week was one of those weeks when we didn’t have any specific plans. The weather was beautiful, so we decided to walk several blocks to a neighborhood restaurant for lunch. We ordered a tuna sandwich and house salad to share, with a side of egg salad for DJ. Much to our dismay (insert sarcasm here), our sandwich came with French fries….guess we had to eat them.
DJ has been growing more and more irritated with the concept of sitting. This makes meal times extremely stressful for me, as she already eats like a bird. I am constantly worried that she’s not eating enough, and now, without sitting still for more than 40 seconds, I am convinced that she instantly burns whatever calories she ingests. How she has enough energy to even support her body’s automatic functions like breathing is sometimes beyond me. (Though I am thankful for such mysteries in life).
About five minutes into our lunch, DJ lost interest in her egg salad and began reaching for my tuna sandwich. Lord knows it’s not gonna hurt me (or my hips) to sacrifice a few calories, so I gladly gave it up. For those of you who have a kid who doesn’t enjoy eating, then you can relate to the sense of satisfaction felt when they actually “ask” for something off their plate, or yours. You can probably also relate to sometimes allowing them to eat foods that you swore you’d never give to them – like French fries. They see “yummy,” and you see “CALORIES.” Go for it, kid.
After eating part of my tuna sandwich, DJ wanted a French fry. My mom and I looked at one another, and elated over her interest, couldn’t hand the fry over to her quickly enough. DJ took a little taste and then began motioning toward my plate. I thought perhaps she wanted to try some ketchup, so I dipped it and returned it to her tiny tuna-laden hand. She got a little fussy, handed it back, and then began her routine of fidgeting, wiggling, throwing food and growling – her signal for being done with the meal.
My mom and I began eating faster, knowing that we had suddenly been catapulted into borrowed time. As we were finishing up, an older woman approached our table. I figured she was just another admirer of DJ’s who was inevitably going to gush on and on about how adorable my kid was. You can imagine my surprise when she decided to school me in mothering.
“You know, you missed the sign.” I was dumbfounded. What sign? The “No kids allowed in this restaurant” sign? The “No giggling at your table” sign? The woman recognized my confusion and said, “The French fry. You dipped her French fry in ketchup and when you gave it back to her, she tried to tell you she didn’t want it. She tried telling you. She didn’t want it on her plate. You missed it. You missed the sign.” And with those two cents jammed down my throat, she walked away.
I was mortified. Some old woman thought that I was a bad mom (or at least a disengaged mom), and she had the audacity to point it out in front of my own mother. I felt knee high to ant – shrinking in my seat. If I was going to be called out like that, why couldn’t it have been over one of my famous quinoa bakes, or spinach frittatas? Why couldn’t a complete stranger have seen DJ reject my apple and sweet potato compote, or my chicken and brown rice roll-ups? I was embarrassed to have been lectured over a darn fry – of all things.
I am continually amazed by the unsolicited advice that strangers offer parents. I can still remember where I was standing the first time someone shouted (literally, yelled from their car window as I walked through a parking lot) their opinion at me when DJ was just a few weeks old. I was crushed, and have never forgotten the piercing sting of the “You’re doing it all wrong” message unloaded on me that day. No matter how wonderful I feel about the job that I’m doing as DJ’s mom, comments like these have a way of shaking my confidence. Because I have a sneaking suspicion that people will never learn to keep their mouths shut, I am hoping that I can at least learn to take their words with a grain of salt.
This parenting stuff is hard. I’m just 14 ½ months into it, and I question myself about one thing or another at least once a day. I have no notes to refer to, no experience to call upon, no guidebook, and sometimes not even a clue about how to handle certain situations (like the day DJ had a rock solid poop stuck halfway out of her bottom). These uncertain moments are terrifying, and can bring you to your knees (in both agony, and laughter – there is always laughter once these unbelievable predicaments are resolved). However, I sure could do without the bully beat down from you better-than folks out there.
My mom just shrugged her shoulders at the confrontation, and never uttered another word about it. That’s wisdom I tell ya – she allowed the woman to rant, and then let her opinion dissipate into thin air the moment that curmudgeon walked away from us. Please dear God, let me become calloused and unaffected long before I become a grandma!
Little did Mrs. Intuitive know, she missed a sign too – a “sweet” little hand gesture from me as she turned her back. Immature, absolutely. Empowering, heck yes!