“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
― James Baldwin
Just recently I had to go to the ER for quite a painful leg cramp that turned out to be infected. The Doctor told me I had two options, stay overnight and do a drip to blast it out or I could take pills over the next few days while keeping my leg elevated. I chose the latter and to celebrate my release from the hospital without an overnight stay I ventured out after closing a few candidates for a celebratory fish taco and see a friend. Due to my condition, and the fact that I had to keep my leg elevated sitting at the bar, where I typically perch, was not an option. I grabbed a table a table in the back of the establishment, opened my laptop, and ordered dinner.
Now if you know me and or follow some of my rants on the book of face, you know that one of my pet peeves is small children who are brought into fine dining establishments and are either left to their own devices or are ignored by their parents. Seriously, what ever happened to the neighborhood babysitter? Where did those days go? I like to relax in the town next to mine called Del Rey. It’s like Mayberry with a local pharmacy, independent bars, and restaurants. The tough part is that the city is overrun by small children and dogs. Now don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. It’s the children I can live without. Not that I don’t care for the little ankle biters but when I am trying to enjoy my meal and have a conversation the banshee-like wailing from a baby that should be home is too much to ingest.
I was blissful that night as the adult crowd was bussing lightly and Johnny Cash Channel was playing some great music, then, it happened. A mother, her mother and two children came in. The establishment is small, and there are only a few 4 tops available all were filled but the one next to me. I knew what was going to happen, this ostensibly was my nightmare unfolding. I weighed my options seeing has dinner was on its way, could not sit at the bar, and all the other tables were now full, I was for lack of a better word, trapped.
The family made a noisy entrance upon coming to the table, and a verbal confrontation broke out between the siblings about who got to sit next to Grandma, I waited impatiently for my food and dug in for what was going to be a very long 45 minutes. I was doing what I normally do, and that was write. Although I turn out noise when I am writing it is the piercing, nails on the chalkboard, annoyance of little ones stammering on or screaming. I sat there trying to concentrate on the task at hand and the I heard it. Not the voice of a screaming child but the calm voice of a mother disciplining her children. She did not yell at the boy, she sternly gave him his first warning. I’m not sure for what really, he must have done something other than a shout out.
The daughter was conversational at the table, but she was, dare I say it, wonderfully cute. She wanted to tell a story from school, and as she struggled with speaking and sentence structure, I was taken back to my childhood. I was often not allowed to talk at the dinner table in public but given the chance I would try and get it all out. My dinner came, and I ate it down slower than I thought. I listened to the little girl’s story then the little boy wanted his turn. He interrupted his sister and was immediately shut down quietly by his mother. She took his soda and said it would be returned when he apologized. He did so a few minutes later, begrudgingly. Eventually, he acted up again, and the mom jumped and asked to switch seats with her saying to her son, “you really don’t me to sit by you right now.” Always with grace, always with composure. When she finished moving over, I could not help but look towards their table and our eyes met, and she looked down as though she was ashamed. That hurt me, it pained me a great deal as that was not my intention.
As I have stated before, I have often ranted about non-disciplined children in restaurants, and I feared for the worst, especially in Del Rey, VA. Turns out the mother was amazing, she had her kids kept in check the whole time, and I got a lot of work done and had a quite meal with some sweet stories. It reminded me of my past growing. My Mother and Grandmother were stern but never raised their voice. The children were learning respect, both for their mother but the world around us. They were learning how to act in a public establishment, and they had one hell of a teacher in this woman.
Oddly they finished before I did and I am still perplexed as to how that happened. When it was time for the check I grabbed Melissa, their server, and told her I would take care of it. Melissa knows me well, and she stared at me blankly but said Ok. Once I had signed the check she walked over to the table and told the ladies that their bill had been taken care of. They of course asked by who and why? She said Derek the man sitting next to you requested to pick up you tab. They both looked at me and said, “thank you so much!” I, in turn, replied, “No, thank you for raising your kids the right way with manners, both of you.” They wanted to buy me a drink, but I said no, I am on antibiotics, but even then I would not accept, just #payitforward and keep being an awesome parent in raising your children. The Grandmother said lovingly, “you are making her cry.” I humbly told her she obviously was just passing on what she had learned growing up with you. She teared up a little as well. Before they left they made sure the kids both said thank you to me, and the young man put out his hand for a shake, I obliged.
I don’t have children, but many of my friends do, some married some single. I hear their struggles but see the love they have for their offspring. One of my closest friends once said to me holding his son, “you got to get yourself one of these.” I am well past that point in my life, and frankly, I like being Uncle Rodrigo, as I am called by the kids. I’m the funny story teller, movie watcher, and secret friend that espouses sage advice. There is hope in the world, you just have to look past all the garbage to see it. #truestory