Hubby and I are not proud of our behavior. As a matter of fact, if anyone at the suburban quick- service restaurant managed to videotape us losing our sh-t, we'll be mortified.
Saturday was Earth Day as well as the March for Science, so we took our kids downtown to meet up with friends for breakfast and then show our support for our planet. Of course it was lovely and inspiring and all, so when we had to cut out early for a birthday party, we were a little bummed. On the other hand, the day was raw and rainy, so we were also a little relieved.
At the train station, a balloon man made a blue balloon sword for Babyboy and a pink poodle for Babygirl. Halfway home, rather predictably, Babyboy's sword popped. He wailed, then pouted, as Babygirl "helpfully" reminded him that HER balloon toy was still like new.
We didn't quite realize how upset he was about the balloon. And also, perhaps, how exhausted from our packed day thus far, dealing with new people at breakfast, trekking all over the downtown area, managing myriad sights and sounds and general chaos, then keeping it together on the train. Though he has autism, he handled it all incredibly well.
So we were probably pushing it when we decided to swing by a takeout salad place for a healthy late lunch just before the birthday party.
The restaurant was pretty crowded, and there were only a few tables open. Babyboy found a small table in one quiet corner, while Babygirl found a bigger table in the middle of the larger sitting room. Both refused to relocate.
Hubby ran to the men's room while I tried to resolve the table situation. Babyboy's table only fit two, while Babygirl's was for four, so, pretty straightforward: "Let's go over there where your sister is, honey, so we can all have a seat."
But Babyboy was done. Just DONE. He had draped himself over the tinier table, hugging it, not budging.
I gently touched his shoulder and leaned down, whispered in his ear: "Honey, we need four seats, or we won't all fit, okay? Let's go to that bigger table, okay?"
He whined: "I want to sit HERE! Why does SHE get to pick where we sit when MY balloon popped and I'm sad? I should pick because I'm SAD. I want to sit HERE."
I tried reasoning, then gentle tugging. While he did release the tabletop and shuffle grudgingly towards the larger space, he did so while whining VERY loudly:
"It's not FAIR! It's not FAIR! Why does SHE get to pick where we sit? Why does SHE get to pick? I'm the one who is sad! MY balloon popped, not HERS!"
Meantime I whispered reassuringly, soothingly: "Okay, okay, I understand, here, you can watch a show on my phone. Want to watch a show? Here, let's pick a show.." I was practically begging, but, to no avail.
The more I whispered/ begged, the more he whined, and loudly. People were watching us, with curiosity and annoyance, and I was acutely aware.
When offering SpongeBob on my iPhone didn't work, I knew we would have to leave, so I announced:
"Okay, this isn't going to work. Let's go home, guys, let's go outside, c'mon. We're leaving, right now." I said this out loud, as much for the other diners' benefit, as I herded our kids out the doors.
The kids were just ahead of me, already in the glass foyer, when I noticed a loud banging and clattering sound.
It was like a fist hammering on a table so hard, that it was making the silverware clatter.
Which is what it was.
An elderly man seated near the open door was bringing his closed fist down heavily on his table, again and again, HARD, so that his food and utensils jumped and rang out with every beat.
Only when I finally looked, did he stop. He then gestured angrily towards Babyboy, raised his finger to his lips, and made an exaggerated, furious, spitting SHHHHHH sound at me.
I froze, eyes locked with this angry old man who didn't seem to speak English.
The kids were already pushing at the outer set of doors.
Only a second passed, but this is what went through my head:
Are you kidding me, asshole? My kid's autistic and exhausted and fixated on his silly balloon and I cannot do anything about that besides leave. Can't you see that we're leaving? We've only been here about three minutes total and we're LEAVING and you have to pull this shit?
And then I did was something I don't think I have ever done in my entire life.
I leaned towards him from the doorway, leveled my middle finger right in his face, and said, as clearly and calmly as I could:
Then I followed my kids into the foyer and out the doors to the parking lot. Babygirl tripped and fell and I lifted her up, pulling Babyboy along with me as I made a beeline for the car.
Meantime, Hubby had just exited the men's room. He had heard Babyboy's whining and then the banging/ clattering ruckus. He had seen the old man pointing at Babyboy and shushing us. Somehow, he didn't catch my reaction, and thought that I had just fled.
So when he passed by that guy's table, he threw out:
"Have a nice day, sir, God bless you, and by the way, FUCK YOU!" and he ran to catch up with us in the parking lot.
In the car, I was shaking, almost crying. Hubby turned to me and shared that he'd given that guy a piece of him mind. I admitted that I had, as well.
We both smirked.
Now, Hubby and I are both well-educated working folks with professional reputations to protect. As such, neither of us uses the F-bomb, or any profanities, very often. And neither of us is in the habit of losing it with compete strangers. But we did both, and if given the chance for a do-over, I'm not sure that we would have done it any differently.
Of course, we didn't do much to advance the cause. Our classless behavior didn't help anyone to understand autism, empathize with struggling parents, or tolerate tantruming children.
I'm not sure if any of that would have even been possible, but we could have acted with more grace. So, we both feel ashamed.
We did end up going to the birthday party, where we shared our story with many very sympathetic parents. People shared their own experiences of child-behavior-shaming in public spaces, and how they reacted. It was therapeutic.
Still, I know for a fact that neither Hubby nor I will ever venture into that takeout restaurant again!