Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mind Your Manners at Chic-fil-a

There is a horrible strain of the flu going around in my area of Virginia. It's hitting schools, churches, daycares, and even my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. So you know I had to be stir-crazy to haul two kids out on a play-date at a local Chic-fil-a when there is such nastiness going around. I figured that Purell and Wet Ones would keep illness at bay. Who would have thought that it isn't the flu I should be worried about, but a couple of kids whose oblivious mothers use the play area in the restaurant as their own personal babysitter? I never expected peril on the playground...just a nice lunch with my friend and her three daughters.

I am the last person to judge other people's kids. My older daughter has thrown enough hissy fits in Panera and Chic-fil-a that I am surprised they don't have a "wanted" poster with her photo posted near the entrances. The little one is only seven weeks old and seems more mild-mannered than her sibling...I am hoping it stays this way. Natalie can sure get out of control, like most two year olds I know, but a bully she is not. She's also only two years old, unlike the little trolls we ran into on Friday. The youngest of the bunch was probably six or so.

I'm also the last person to judge another mom's parenting skills. I've had my fair share of screw-ups, but I do try to be considerate of other families. When we met up with our playmates for lunch, my friend "LM" had to contort her body in order to even get our kids into their seats at the table. She had to twist in ways that could have earned her a spot in the Barnum & Bailey line-up, all because the group of moms at the table behind ours were taking up enough space for a HUMMER to park in. Except the one mom wasn't parking her HUMMER...she brought in her enormous travel system stroller and parked it right up against the seat of LM's middle child. Why is a travel system necessary in Chic-fil-a? I could have understood if she was actually using the stroller to say, walk her baby around the restaurant for some fresh air or something, but the baby was sitting in her lap, as happy as a clam. The woman didn't blink an eye as LM struggled to wedge "H" into her seat.

Sitting directly next to the glass that looks into the play area, the moms were so engrossed in their Bible study that the second mom didn't notice that her little Ghengis Khan was terrorizing the playland on which our children had now migrated to. (Why is the lure of the play area so strong that only ice cream can break its hold on our kids?) Little Ghengis, with her pretty blonde curls, made sure she was partially hidden behind the climbing tower before she started in on LM's oldest girls, H and J. It looked like everybody was kung-foo fighting in there, because poor H and J were doing their best to steer clear of Ghengis and keep an eye on their younger sister, L, and Natalie. L and Natalie had their own problems- they were being stalked by "Nero" and his sister, "Caligula," who belonged to a haggard-looking woman sitting on the other side of us. I should mention that Caligula far exceeded the size requirements for the play area. I notice more and more often that moms "forget" to follow restaurant guidelines, allowing their older kids to run ammuck at the expense of the little ones who just want to play.

Apparently, there was some sort of power struggle going on on the other side of the glass partition, because Caligula turned on Nero so quickly that he hardly saw it coming. After he climbed and jumped over every surface, shoved Natalie and L out of the way a couple times, and kept the other kids from going down the slide, Caligula made a power play and shoved him backwards so hard that he fell and almost slammed his head into the climbing tower. I am sure the poor 15 year old that cleans the play area at the end of the day would have loved mopping up all of the blood from that accident waiting to happen. Thankfully, LM ran in and sternly told the kids to cut it out, which they did. For about five seconds. When their mom finally got a clue and wised up to what was going on in there, she had a nice screaming match with Nero in front of the entire dining area. LM and I averted our eyes.

By this time, Ghengis Khan had been rewarded for her poor behavior with an ice cream cone, which she ate while hanging over the back of the booth behind my head, saying "hi" loudly into my ear over and over. I considered head butting her, but settled for rolling my eyes at LM as we attempted to continue our conversation. Ghengis' mom eventually paused her Bible study long enough to politely ask Ghengis to "leave those ladies alone [because] they are trying to talk." Isn't there a Bible verse that says to "spare the rod and spoil the child"?

In short, if you don't have kids, enjoy your meal on the other side of the restaurant, far away from the war zone. If you do have kids, think about the other diners next time you go out. Don't leave it up to other moms to police your kids while you enjoy a leisurely lunch and study time. We gave up leisurely lunches and study times the second our (your) little warmongers arrived. So be considerate and bring a straight-jacket or some form of restraining device. Mind your manners. Pretty please?

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