The other evening, my husband and I went out for date night. We chose a very nice exclusive and expensive restaurant because we wanted as romantic a setting as possible – we rarely go out and are usually tearing out our hair trying to feed our kids, get them to lessons and so on. Dining at the same time was a young couple with a toddler. The toddler proceeded to ruin everyone’s dinner by running around, staring at me as I ate my octopus appetizer (kept saying “dinosaur, dinosaur”). As the young couple left, all the remaining diners broke out into a round of applause. Were we too mean and cruel for “standing our ground”? – Kid Hater in Georgia
Dear Kid Hater,
Actually, you are quite justified in being upset that your evening was disrupted. After all, things are supposed to be perfect in our lives unless we are among the vast number of unlucky schmucks working three jobs and not making ends meet and who do not have even the hope of a nice evening out to get away from our pretty gold plated lives. But, that being said, I understand what you are saying. I would have been annoyed as well. I think the reaction of applauding the young couple as they left was perfectly fine. While they had a right to take their toddler to dinner in a nice place – just imagine how miserable they must have been or out of their mind to take the child– they also had to take on the responsibility of your reaction and that of the other diners. In fact, let me say this. The beauty of what you describe (and someday when you are an aging baby boomer like me you’ll better understand this) is that restaurants are where life is teeming as if in a rain forest and why we go there in the first place. While our original plans may be disrupted, we should find joy in just about anything that is life affirming. While that thought may not make your octopus go down any easier with a toddler staring it down, just rejoice that the toddler is safe and happy and that your glare in his/her direction will add just one more piece of the puzzle of his/her life story. You may play a leading role as the grown up child may someday ponder with a psychologist: “It all started when that lady in the restaurant was so mean to me.” And, perhaps the young couple desperately needed a night out themselves and couldn’t get a baby sitter or afford one. Give some thought to the rich variety of life that finds itself flourishing in a restaurant experience. It’s not just about the food – you could have shipped the kids off to Grandma and made hamburger helper but your instincts says “go out.” Someday, Dear Foodie will reveal to the world the most bizarre reason she bellied up to a bar on December 19, 2001.