“Oh, come on! There has to be some middle ground!” The woman yelled, as she whipped off her glasses and turned in her seat. She was scolding my husband and me because our kids were being loud in the restaurant. She was there first and wanted to eat and read in peace. She succeeded in startling my children into silence.
I snapped back at her with equal venom in my voice, offering no apologies. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but if I could go back and speak more eloquently, I would have said this:
We are at the middle ground, ma’am. It is the middle of the day, in the middle of an empty cafe, in the middle of the week. You want peace and quiet, and so do we. That is why we are doing all that we can to keep our children under control.
You come here every day, you said. We don’t. We wanted to try something new, a change from lunch at home or at the park, a lunch I don’t have to pack or clean up, a treat for everyone, since my husband was joining us.
We knew this was a bad idea as soon as we sat down, but our lunch has been ordered, the bill has been paid, and you are stuck with us, while we wait for our food.
This is the middle ground, ma’am. We are supposed to share the same space for twenty minutes, politely ignore each other, then go about our separate ways, never thinking about this twenty minutes again.
You’ve disrupted the social order, now, by engaging with us, so I have to ask. What was your intention in yelling?
Were you notifying us that our children are annoying? We already know this. They’re bothering us, too. We sat far away from you, and the kids have not come near your table, but we get it. Their frenetic energy travels across the room.
Were you trying to embarrass us into leaving? No such luck. I was beginning to mobilize the kids to wait outside for our food, but you interrupted the preparation with your admonishment. Now, I’m quite happy to sit comfortably and wait here because I’m not embarrassed. I’m a parent.
Did you hope I would apologize? I most certainly would have offered my thanks and an apology as we were leaving the restaurant. These kids are distracting, aren’t they? But an apology doesn’t seem necessary now. My children are still learning to control their outbursts. You, ma’am, should know better.
You don’t have to worry about us coming back here. We discovered, well before you interjected, that this isn’t a good place for kids.
But if the middle ground you were looking for was an apology and a way for us to magically silence our kids, then you will need to look elsewhere. For you are entitled to judge my kids, my husband and me, but you are not allowed to speak rudely to us. I don’t owe you an apology, but maybe I do owe you a thank you. We intended to teach our kids one lesson today: How to sit down in a restaurant. You’ve given us the opportunity to teach them another: How to stand up in one, too.