My two youngest sons and I LOVE having lunch at Chick-fil-a because of the family-friendly atmosphere and delicious fast food–not to mention the amazing little play area. It’s one of the few places where a little squeal by a toddler isn’t taboo or frowned upon. But, today–as my toddler and baby were simultaneously eating, squirming, and squealing with delight–you and your husband couldn’t help but fix your judgmental eyes on me, or so I thought.
It was only around 11 o’clock, so the rambunctious, kid-heavy lunch crowd was yet to appear. Therefore, I realize that my two little munchkins probably appeared a little too loud for your ears. I felt your eyes burning a hole through my back as my son flailed himself on the booth cushion and yelled out some silly statement due to his excitement he felt awaiting little friends who might come to play with him. I shushed him and turned around to see if you were still staring at me. You quickly shifted your focus back to one another.
I started to give my one year-old some pieces of my chicken wrap, and I thought I heard you gasp as I used my hands–instead of a fork or knife, and I placed the food on a naked table–instead of a plate or placemat. I heard you whispering about how gross it was…or so I thought.
“Why am I such a spectacle?”, I thought to myself.
“Have they never been around young children?”
“I mean, this is a relatively uneventful, peaceful lunch in my book. Sheesh! Please stop staring at me!”
I thought about packing it all up and heading to the playground right then, but the baby started fussing a little. He was still hungry. So, I reached into the diaper bag and took out his bottle of water and toddler formula. I started to take the top off of the nipple, but for some unknown reason, it just wouldn’t budge.
So, I started twisting it in various ways to get it too loosen. Nothing. Then, the baby started to cry because he saw the bottle, and I was unable to give it too him.
Your stares began to feel more ominous than before…like lasers in my back.
As my thoughts about your motives began to escalate, I could feel sweat on my upper lip. My body temperature began to rise, and I decided that we might want to cut our Chick-fil-a experience a little short today. I didn’t want to deal with your assumed judgment. But, we’d lasted this long, and I wanted to have a special time with my littles, so I decided to persist.
I started pulling the fire out of that bottle top, but still no budging. Meanwhile, my toddler exclaimed to everyone in the restaurant that he wanted his “coffee”.I felt your stares again, and I, rather loudly, told my son that his “Coffee” isn’t actually called “Coffee”.
“It’s ‘Creamer’, Sweetie. You like to have creamer. And, you can have one creamer as soon as you eat your nuggets,” I said as I continued to put the bottle between my knees to try and get more of a grip on the top.
I was sure you’d written me off as a bad mom with loud kids, gross food hygiene habits, and terrible grip strength.
That is until you walked right over to me and kindly asked, “Can I help you get that top off your bottle?”.
I was shocked.
The kindness and compassion in your eyes was overwhelming.
I quickly said, “Yes! Please! I must have been too forceful when I put the top on before I left the house.”
When I tried to hand it to you, the top fell off on its own. Go figure!
I thanked you, and you gave me a warm smile–the kind of smile that says, “I’ve been there, Honey,” or “Don’t worry! You’re doing a great job, Momma.” Then, you and your husband cleared your table and left.
I want to tell you that I’m sorry for my snap judgment of you. I assumed the worst of you and your motives, and I was sure that you were doing the same to me.
You stared at me because you related to me, not because you were revolted by me or my kids.
Your eyes wandered our way because you remembered how it was when you had two little ones.
You couldn’t look away when I was fighting with the bottle top, because you know what a juggling act it can be to feed and calm two young kiddos. And, you just wanted to help.
Thank you. Thank you for noticing my struggle. Thank you for your willingness to lend a hand. Thank you for your reassuring and encouraging smile.
God used you today to remind me to choose to see the best in people, just as God chooses to see the best in me.