I carried my daughter into a restaurant for dinner a couple nights ago. The hostess who took down our name said to her, “Oh honey, you’re too big for that.” Politely we ignored her. The waitress who seated us said, “Sweetheart, why don’t you give your mom’s back a break? You can walk.” Politely, we ignored her too.
We took our seats and began looking at our menus. The party at the table next to us kept staring. Then a lady said (loudly, of course), “It’s a shame kids these days can’t be present for anything. They can’t even take their headphones off at the table.” Her commentary was met with someone else’s at her table about the prevalence of cell phones, tablets and iPads. I knew it was directed at us, but I hoped my daughter didn’t.
Because what those people didn’t know is her story. They didn’t know that her body had betrayed her. They didn’t know that those head phones were what kept the volume of the place from inducing a seizure. They didn’t know that a tablet was the only way she could communicate, or that I carried her because her own legs no longer could. They didn’t know we had stopped for dinner on our way towards the hospital she’d be admitted to tomorrow. The hospital where I’d hear them call “code blue,” and she’d come to with a trauma team around her.
They didn’t know because it wasn’t their business. They didn’t know because her story isn’t theirs to be a part of. They didn’t know because absolutely nobody, let alone a sick child, owes an adult an explanation for what brings them joy or helps them engage in a world everyone belongs to. The mama bear in me wanted to throw plates at the people ostracizing her, or at the very least, peanuts (hey, it was Texas Roadhouse, where that sort of thing is appropriate). But I couldn’t do that, because my daughter deserved more.
She deserved kindness. The kind of kindness she shares with everyone. She deserved inclusion. The opportunity to eat at a restaurant without being singled out as different, or bad. She, at 12 years old, bravely facing battles adults couldn’t fight, deserved a carefree night out with her mama — and these people, strangers threatened it.
There’s a quote, attributed to a lot of different people including Plato, that reads “Be kind, everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” And how simple are those words?
How easy is it move through life in our own lanes? To seat the mama and child, or focus on our family and food?
Or better yet — merge lanes and offer a hand?
What if someone had looked at the girl in my arms and said, “Mama, can I get her a chair?” Or said “hello” when we were seated, instead of snidely commenting on the electronics on the table?
The world is a busy place. And most of us only cross paths for a moment or two. But what if in those moments we delivered happiness, rather than division? How much brighter could our space be?
Come on, Mamas. Be the light. Be kind.
But if you can’t, for the love of everything … be quiet.
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