First, what happened:
I was having lunch with a fellow special needs mom. I had all 5 kids with me, and she had her child with her who also has Hydro. We were enjoying a nice time catching up and bouncing things off of one another having to do with our SN children. My older four kids were sitting there talking and eating nicely. They were being quiet and respectful and having a great time. We happened to be sitting next to the front tables so Meagan's wheelchair could fit and still leave plenty of room for the servers. People walked in and out, as in any restaurant, and the lunch continued smoothly. At one point, two young women came in. The server greeted them and nicely led them to a table near us to seat them. Before even going near the table, one of the young ladies turned her body away from the server, faced my friend and me, looked us directly in the eyes, and said in a loud and purposeful tone full of attitude, "Ugh, I don't sit near children (think of the most snotty disdainful tone you have ever heard)..... We need another table!!!!" With that she glared at us with an unfriendly stare, flipped her hair back towards the server and stormed behind the server to a different table across the room. Both my friend and I were taken aback by this young woman's brash nature, and even the waitstaff around her was suddenly fidgety and extremely uncomfortable. One of the waitresses even came by our table and said "don't worry about it" while another staff member apologized for the young woman's behavior.
Second, the response:
My friend and I were utterly speechless. For those who know me, I'm rarely speechless. :) And that is usually a good thing. I'm a strong independent woman and mother, and this has helped me through numerous uncomfortable, or inappropriate situations. But I was speechless. As everyone knows, having the 5 children including Meagan we have had our share of "comments"...but even those I can dismiss as "ignorant" or just a lack of exposure to larger families, and if persistent, I have responses at the ready. This young woman, however, was just trying to be mean.... and the effort put forth was shocking to us.
Third, the plan of action:
I have heard people mention numerous times that I am a "mama bear." I take this as a compliment, because, frankly, I think any mother is absolutely a mama bear to some extent. It is just instinct.. We are here ultimately to protect our children, so it is a natural occurrence that comes to the forefront when needed. As we finished our lunch yesterday, we contemplated how we could have reacted to that young woman. Perhaps a comment we should have thought of faster. Or maybe approaching their table and saying something. I even jokingly contemplated parking my children outside at the window where her new table sat, but we of course realized as funny as these ideas were, none would be productive or effective.
We were still in shock at how rude the girl was and at a loss as to why she would go through such a public effort. As my friend and I left the restaurant, we said our goodbyes and went to our respective cars. Just when I had closed my door to start the car, I happened to turn and look at the car next to me. There were the two young women. As soon as they saw me, they pulled down their sunglasses and gave me a purposeful 5 second disgusted look, and then proceeded to back out of the parking space at lightning speed (to make a point I suppose - glad all my kids were safely in the car!)
Of course inside I was quite angry about the whole thing from the restaurant comment to their continued attitude upon noticing me in the car. And then Reilly asked me "Mom, why was that woman so mean? It made me sad." That's when I took a step back and realized that she was right. As shocking and rude as the young woman had been, and as much as it had insulted my friend and me, and our children, it was worse than all of that. It was sad!
I have no clue if we will ever cross paths with that young woman again, but, I'm sure I will never forget her. If my 9 year old can pick up on the sadness, then the young woman must know it as well, even if not continuously. And that's not a way to live. As Mother Teresa said, "Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile." As much as I really wanted to give that woman a piece of my mind, I realize now why God may have helped restrain that urge. That woman's sad view of children and of the world would not have been helped by anything I had to say - someone that blatant and that resistant to joy would not be moved by much. It would have to be an internal transformation, and that is something I cannot influence verbally. But by our actions, by the children behaving and smiling and having a great time, by my friend and I keeping silent in the end and just continuing our lunch, and by our prayers for the young woman maybe, just maybe, she will have a change of heart.
I do not know her, or what she may have experienced. Perhaps there is a valid reason for her disdain towards children and her need to outwardly express that. I just hope that I raise my girls better than that. People are entitled to their opinions, and yes, I even mean opinions to not wish to sit around children or perhaps opinions that somehow kids are noisy and annoying. That's ok. Not everyone is a "kid person" and it's just part of humanity that we all have our limitations. However, I do hope that in the future, the young woman is at least changed enough to know her presence and simply have respect for her other human beings in public places. My parents always said "there's a time and a place"...and this was a prime example. I really don't mind what the reason is she didn't want to sit near us - but there was no respectable reason to tell us that, and make such an effort to turn to us and proudly announce her dislike of children. She could have easily asked for a table across the room, without proclaiming her reason why, and then proceeded to talk with her friend at their new table about how she doesn't like to be around kids. Obviously there is something there that bothers her so much, she felt the need to publicly make it known and act disrespectful above all.
Fast forward to last night. The girls and I were sitting and cleaning up from some groceries. There were some brown paper bags that we were collecting from our grocery boxes to put into the trash. Reilly started to rip up the bags to make them easier to fit into the trash can. As soon as she did this, Meagan just absolutely lost it and started laughing. We thought it was hilarious, so I grabbed my camera and Reilly did it again - and Meagan laughed hysterically! Over and over. It was so silly, but it brought so much joy seeing her laugh and laugh and laugh, we started to giggle as well. I couldn't help but think of the young woman we had encountered that day and Reilly's comments to me. She was right. It was sad.
As I listened to Meagan's infectious laugh I couldn't help but think all Meagan has been through. And here she was, laughing hysterically....at ripping paper. I realized she had something that woman didn't - pure joy. There's a time and a place for us to vent, profess our dislikes or annoyances to our friends, of course. But there is always a time and a place for joy and respect - and at the end of the day, I'm at least glad my girls realize that. I hope, somehow, that young woman finds it too.