An A+ Family

By Kelly

I tried not to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to listen.

“Some families are just out of control,” said one of the voices. “I mean, seriously.”

I glanced sideways at the table next to ours. We were sitting in the dining room of a nice hotel, enjoying the final moments of the breakfast buffet, along with a few other families and some late-rising stragglers.

The table next to us was in the second category. Three young men sat around it, looking like they’d just rolled out of bed. Wrinkled t-shirts, grungy jeans, unshaven faces, they nursed cups of coffee and toasted bagels as they winced at the noises surrounding them.

“I know,” said another young man at the table. “It’s like, can’t you control your kids? Who’s in charge here, anyway?”

I knew immediately who they were talking about.

At the other end of the dining room, a family was at Def-Con 1. A baby, probably around eight months old, was screaming – and I mean SCREAMING – in his high chair. His older sister, probably three, was doing laps around the table, incensed that her parents wouldn’t get her another bowl of Lucky Charms from the buffet. “But I want it! I WANT IT!” she shrieked.

Her parents, equal parts exasperated and mortified, were trying their best not to escalate the situation. “Honey, you need to sit down,” they hissed, attempting to ignore the dark looks shooting their way. “You’ve got to finish the Lucky Charms you have before you get more.”

“Noooooo! I don’t want to! I want more NOW!” countered the girl, as she squirmed out of her dad’s reach.

The commotion made it harder to snoop on the band members. (Note: I don’t really know if they were part of a band. But that’s how I had them pegged at this point.)

“They should give grades to parents,” suggested one of the men.

“I know! Like, I’d give them a D-,” said another, gesturing toward the meltdown underway.

Snickers all around.

“And this family?” said another, jerking his head toward our table. (My ears pricked.) “I’d give this family an A+. These parents know what they’re doing.”

An A+?!?!

I looked at my tablemates. My kids were sitting nicely on their seats. Natalie was adding yet another packet of butter to her English muffin. Connor was eating his Raisin Bran silently, his eyes fixed on the situation at the other end of the dining room. Teyla was thoughtfully mashing a banana. Corey was stirring his coffee.

My heart and my head swelled to three times their normal size.

“Well,” I thought to myself. “Yes. Obviously, my children are angels. And we’re not perfect, but Corey and I are pretty good parents. We try to have fun with our kids but still enforce boundaries. We would never let them….”

And then I started laughing to myself. Because as much as I wanted to pretend, I knew with every cell in my body that this A+ moment was just that – a moment. No family looks good all the time, and I doubted the family at the other end of the dining room was really as big of a disaster as they appeared.

Thankfully, we were at a different hotel the next morning, so the band wasn’t at breakfast when my older two decided to crawl on the carpet like miniature commandos because they were bored. They didn’t see the baby discover a piece of petrified bacon under one of the tables and pop it into her mouth before I could grab it. (Building her immunity. Building her immunity.) They didn’t see the sugar packets that were hastily stuffed back into the holder after the baby spilled them out for the third time, or the coffee that was sloshed, or the food that was wasted because “it doesn’t taste good anymore.”

Because the truth is, we can go from an A+ to a D- in 20 minutes flat.

My only hope is that we’re eventually graded on a curve.

Kelly grades herself on a daily basis at her personal blog, Love Well.

16 Responses to An A+ Family
  1. Stephanie
    June 10, 2009 | 12:02 am

    Building immunity… I say that all the time!!!

    Oh and I grade this post A+.


  2. The Gang's Momma
    June 10, 2009 | 7:44 am

    LOL! 20 minutes? You guys can hold it together for 20 minutes? Sometimes we can fly from A to F in 30 seconds flat. With the pedal really pushed to the floor. 🙂

    Great post!

  3. Anitra
    June 10, 2009 | 9:49 am

    Before I had a baby, I felt the same way as those scruffy guys. Can’t people CONTROL their children?

    Now that my 8-month-old is pulling up, refusing spoons and bottles, and occasionally shrieking at the top of her lungs… my husband wonders why we never go out for a meal anymore.

  4. melissa
    June 10, 2009 | 1:52 pm

    oh yes i know the feeling….my son is generally quite an angel but for some reason he gets cranky in restaurants and I get all the bad looks etc which infuriates me that i get to feel emberassed, that i get graded, that it looks like i shouldnt be there……oh well i still go and try to be cool

  5. Carrie
    June 10, 2009 | 4:12 pm

    This is so true!!! 🙂 I liked how you put it – there are A+ moments, and then later that day, we go through D- moments!!! 🙂

  6. suburbancorrespondent
    June 11, 2009 | 12:04 am

    Having children is the best lesson in humility a person could hope for – and the more, the better.

  7. melissa from girlymama
    June 11, 2009 | 8:51 am

    how true!!! i learned VERY quickly as a parent to never be too smug, because next time YOU could be that parent dragging the screaming child out of target!

  8. gretchen from lifenut
    June 11, 2009 | 10:26 am

    This post rings true, true, true. We’ve been complimented in restaurants, we’ve been on the receiving end of eye-daggers.

    My husband and I still reminisce about our oldest child’s first major public meltdown.

  9. Jennifer
    June 11, 2009 | 12:54 pm

    Love this! I’ve been there on both sides of the spectrum. Truly, people do not understand until they have their own kids.

  10. candace
    June 11, 2009 | 6:19 pm

    My son generally is pretty good in any setting outside the house. We have our moments though but thankfully they are few and far between. I think it is because if he acts up well we are leaving wherever we may be at the time. He knows after having to leave many times.

  11. Brandy T.
    June 12, 2009 | 7:37 am

    20 minutes? Try 20 seconds! 🙂 Isn’t it amazing the kind of perspective that kids give us?

  12. Megan
    June 15, 2009 | 8:36 am

    Parenting is the absolute quickest way to learn not to be judgmental or smug. I know I can sure count on being brought down several grades in a heartbeat the minute I allow myself to think my kids are any less likely to blow a collective gasket in public than anyone else’s. Best thing you can do for a parent in the middle of a D- day is smile understandingly, help them redirect their kids (sometimes), offer a hand, and/or send up a little prayer on their behalf. Tomorrow that’ll be you, almost guaranteed.

  13. Kara
    June 30, 2009 | 11:53 pm

    Hilarious! My favorite recently overheard conversation was by a woman who was so irritated by people that live in the US and can’t speak English. Ten minutes later she was laughing about how her daughter with Down’s Syndrome calls her dumb because she can’t learn sign language. Oh the irony…

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