It was an hour past nap time, but Salty Dog Cafe was still on my husband’s To Do List, and since I love him, or perhaps because I’m completely bonkers, we decided to brave the storm.
We carried two hangry children into the restaurant, and when the server arrived to take our drink order we were all, “Two diet cokes, an apple juice, a grilled cheese, some fish nuggets — oh and do you have some crackers?”
Parents know the struggle.
We were in the corner of the restaurant, and the baby stopped crying JUST long enough to slam down a few oyster crackers. She was in my lap, and I was maneuvering my hands around her body, inhaling a sandwich.
I started to resent my husband for entertaining this horrible idea. I’d voted for sandwiches at the condo. At least there, I could chew. Then Nugget decided to keep getting out of his chair “to go see the water”, and frankly I was about to pull a Jesus at the Marketplace and send some tables flying.
Then my husband took the baby, handed Ben the fish basket and said “Hey, son. Why don’t you have a picnic by the window?”
I must’ve looked at him like he was growing horns.
Great idea, hon. Let him eat on the filthy restaurant floor!
But I was desperate and on the brink, so that’s exactly what my son ended up doing. In seconds, both kids were happy and the meal that started off like a trip through a broken car wash started to feel like a memory in the making.
Conversation changed to, “Remember how we were here just 11 years ago on our honeymoon?”
Stress turned to laughter. I began to actually chew. And chaos suddenly became a special memory.
I would like to say we handled this parenting crisis with enguiniety and skill, but y’all it was something a little less impressive:
We dropped the bar.
Yes, I said it: Parents, sometimes we just have to LOWER OUR STANDARDS.
Tiny people aren’t meant to regulate their emotions and hunger and boredom and exhaustion the same way adults do. They just can’t. And unless you want to be a hermit for the next five years, you’re gonna have to accept that imperfection happens.
If a picnic on a dirty floor buys you a moment’s peace, I say go for it. If the baby is drinking tiny sips of Daddy’s sprite, and it keeps her from melting down, well 1/4 cup of soda never killed anybody.
As Nugget chewed on a French fry overlooking the water, a woman at the table behind us turned around in her seat. She was definitely preparing to make some commentary, and my stomach dropped a little.
“His curls are so adorable,” she smiled. “My son right here used to have the same exact hair!”
Her teenage son laughed and waved, and in that moment I relished in the beauty that is this Sisterhood of Moms.
We all have a certain amount of grace chips when we get started, don’t we?
My husband handed me a grace chip when he took the baby. That mom handed me a grace chip when she completely ignored our floor picnic and instead, complimented my kid.
And tonight I want to hand a grace chip to all of you, in hopes that you might pay it forward.
Parenting is hard. Sometimes we have to just drop the bar in order to get over it.
Marriage is hard. Especially when you are parenting.
Keep that bar set at limbo level, my friends. Life is going to get messy and chaotic. We will all require grace to surive it--and folks, that’s okay.
Because luckily, we all have some grace to give.
Listen, y'all. Do me a favor. Take a moment to jingle those grace chips sitting in your pocket, and remember this moving forward:
What you pass around will eventually make its way back to you.
Make it kindness. Make it grace.
Share a grace chip with your wife when she is frazzled. Share a grace chip with your husband when he lets your child eat off the filthy restaurant floor.
And when you can, share a smile with the family whose kid is eating fish nuggets under a table at Salty Dogs.