Another awesome parenting moment

In which I show my kid how to be passive aggressively confrontational

Back when Desi was about 3, we made the mistake of going to our town’s one popular brew pub restaurant at peak feeding time when all three of us were already faint with hunger.

As we waited 15, 20, 30…40 minutes for a table to open up, our already loose grip on human civility began to slip away. Marco and I had gone completely silent, and Desi was at the tipping point of tears. I hefted him up to my hip and bounced and swayed, my arms getting tireder and tireder.

That’s the state we were in when this incredibly handsome couple—like a Benetton ad with tasteful tattoos and freakishly good posture—floated in with their own kid about Desi’s age in tow. Right as they walked in, some spots at the bar magically opened up in front of them, and they just…sat right down and ordered some drinks and food.

That was when my unfed brain kind of snapped. The seat swooping was bad enough, but the fact that they also had a kid made it all the more infuriating: Other parents know, on a visceral level, what it’s like to have to wait with a hungry toddler. Where’s the understanding? The sympathy? There’s no way they could have missed us there, standing right in front of the door, on the cusp of a family defcon meltdown. Also (and this isn’t something I’m proud of) there was something about how attractive the couple was that extra irritated me…like clearly here were people who routinely got waved past the velvet ropes wherever they went. WELL NOT THIS TIME!

I beelined over to the guy who’d taken our name way back when we first came in and were still young and full of dreams. “Oh,” he said vaguely, “the bar is first come, first serve.”

Me, already in full battle mode: “Why didn’t you tell us that? We were the first to come…we’ve been here for almost an hour! YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD US!”

Clearly no fan of confrontation, or maybe just dick parents, the waiter let his eye contact slip away from my face and just kind of floated away.

Well beyond the point of letting it go, next I walked over to the couple and their kid, Desi still on my hip, and leaned in between them. “Excuse me,” I said with exaggerated sweetness, “I was wondering…what’s the secret?”

The smiled back, looking confused.

“Did you guys like call ahead of time? Because we’ve been waiting forever, but you just walked in and got a seat without having to wait at all!”

They looked horrified, and started to apologize and tried to stand up, but that’s right when their drinks and silverware napkins and water and olives and nuts all arrived, so everything was a confusion of waiters and embarrassment and weird hungry-lady aggression, with Desi looking on all the while, quietly recording everything with his little learning robot eyes.

Then Marco came up: They had a table ready for us! So I just turned my back on the confusion and bad feelings I’d just brewed up at the bar, and huffed my way out of there.

I ordered wine the second we sat down. After my first sip, I started to feel sheepish. Then our food arrived, and after the hunger fog started to clear, my sheepishness deepened to guilt. What kind of lesson was I teaching my kid about how to solve problems? How to treat people? Gah…

When we went to pay our bill, the waiter told us that the couple at the bar had paid for our drinks, which made me feel like an even bigger crumb. We gave them a cringy little wave. They cringe-waved back.

EPILOGUE: A few weeks after Desi started preschool, I got a text from Marco. “OHMYGOD guess who goes to Desi’s school?!” Of course it was the kid from the brew house. When Marco met the parents, the first thing he said was, “We were those asshole parents from the bar!” And they were all, “No! WE were the assholes!”

MORAL: Turns out we’re all assholes. Also next time maybe eat a little something before you go out?

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