Today I sat in a restaurant by myself waiting for my lunch. Sitting alone and eating is one of my favorite things, because I love watching people do what they do.
I see friends laughing, business people meeting and families sitting around the tables. I can identify with pretty much every one of the scenarios I see.
Especially one today.
She sat there in a booth alone with a squirming toddler on her lap who had already climbed out of his booster seat twice and now stood up on the seat to let the entire restaurant know he wanted to GO HOME.
As the food came to the table, those little hands tried grabbing every plate that passed by him, while his mom apologized profusely. The plate in front of her losing steam, she cut up chicken nuggets and blew on hot French fries.
Plopping him into the booster seat again, she slid the plate in front of him, while he screamed those little lungs out because he just wasn't having that plastic chair. He wanted his mom's lap.
That's when he did it. He took her cup and smacked it so hard that a soda geyser shot up from the table.
And boy howdy, that momma was done. I recognized the look in her eyes — fury mixed with exhausted frustration. She wanted to give up and walk out the door right there. She knew people around her were judging with that favorite line, "If that were MY kid."
(But this is a new world, with cameras and videos on tap right on everyone phones, parents now days fear public discipline. No one wants to become the next viral video debate on parenting.)
My youngest is now a 12-year-old but it wasn’t long ago when I stood in her place.
It was my kid laying in the middle of the freezer section kicking his feet and screaming while a forbidden and half-wrapped fudgesicle melted in his death grip.
His eyes rolled into the back of his head with a scream resonating from the deepest reaches of his soul as he shook and thrashed around on the floor. Onlookers uploaded videos to YouTube titled, “Exorcism on aisle 5.”
I was doing the best I knew how to, although I admit I will never be a disciplinary rocket scientist.
He's now a well-behaved sixth grader but it took us many fights to get there, and quite a few were under scrutiny because behavioral lessons are often messy and taught in the public eye.
Logan was strong willed and a major fit thrower. He also has been as solid as a rock since he was three.
He often required more than one person to pick him up off the floor when he was in the middle of a fit or I’d have to drag him out. I was humiliated and sometimes wanted to just walk out and leave that kid right there in the freezer section.
But I never would, because the same person he frustrated the most was the same person who sneaked into his bedroom at night just to make sure he was still breathing.
The truth is I wasn't worried he was inadequate. I worried I was. I was in the middle of the tantrum scene making harsher judgments on myself than anyone else.
Mothering regularly offers big overflowing buckets of self-doubt, no matter what age. But those early years were especially hard for me.
I see those moms out there working the field with their toddlers, in the aisles of Walmart, among the pews of the church or anywhere in that dreaded place called public, and I just want to run over to her.
Today, I almost got up and walked over to her table but before I did, the waitress went over.
"Can we have a box?" she asked. Those busy little legs had finally stopped as he snored and drooled into her shoulder. "Also, can we get our bill?"
The waitress shook her head. "I can get you a box but the bill has already been paid."
Her hand went to her mouth (and mine did too, honestly) as she inquired on who paid for them, but the waitress wouldn't tell.
Honestly, I don't know who paid that bill either but I do know it was straight from Jesus to that sweet mommy's heart.
I have a feeling another mom was somewhere in the crowd remembering those days just like I was.
One day, she will remember, too. Because we are moms, and wherever a screaming toddler flops, there our hearts will also be.