Feb 04 2014
Since I’m a stay at home mom, The Boy doesn’t go to day care. He’s also not yet ready for the area preschools. So, he doesn’t get a lot of interaction with other kids. Additionally, I don’t know if you’re aware, but this winter has sucked frozen gorilla balls. Playing outside has not been an option. Both of us are in dire need of escaping the house, and The Boy also has a need to release some energy every now and then. McDonald’s Play Place is the perfect solution. He gets to run and climb and interact, and I get Diet Coke. It’s win-win.
We went to McDonald’s today. Not at lunch time, and not at dinner time. At in-between time, when he is rested from his nap and shouldn’t need food for awhile. I got me a Diet Coke and him a juice and we went into the Play Place so he could play. At first, everything was fine. He was exploring, and running around, and occasionally looking in the direction of other children. Then, he started approaching the other adults who were sitting at tables, hanging out. He specifically zoned in on this older couple kitty corner from us, who had two young girls with them (their granddaughters, as I later learned). He would walk up to their table and grab the edge of it with his hands, and kind of survey the surface like “Whatcha got up there?” I removed him several times, apologizing, but they laughed it off and said he was cute and not to worry.
Then he started eating their food.
Please understand, it’s not like I was ignoring him or just letting him do whatever. But I couldn’t park myself in front of these people’s table like a security guard or bouncer, fending him off whenever he got near. “Sorry, sir. This is VIP. You’ll have to show a card.” It took me a little time to get up from my table and hustle over there, and between the time of me getting up and hustling, Scrounger McHomelessdude started shoving these people’s fries in his mouth like he’d never been granted the gift of solid food before. I was mortified. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” I apologized as, I’m sure, my face turned tomato red. But these people were not just any people, oh no. They were grandparents. Grandparents who apparently just looooved babies (or toddlers, in this case). Before I knew it, I was standing there awkwardly watching my son integrate into a new family. He was getting on the guy’s lap, cozying up to the smallest girl on the bench seat, taking fries from the older girl, all while Grandma cooed at him approvingly. It was like the Twilight Zone. Is that really my child? Did I imagine the last two years? How long until this happy family calls the police and reports the strange woman who is just standing there staring at their grandson?
He sat with those people for a good 10 minutes while I’m making awkward conversation and they are feeding him fries. I started wondering if they thought I couldn’t afford to buy him his own food, or if they thought I was out of it in some fashion (drugs, general stupidity), because what kind of mother lets her child just crawl all over strangers and what kind of mother lets strangers feed her kid?
Here’s the thing though: if I had tried to remove him, it would have been an ugly scene. I mean, he would have thrown the grandest of conniption fits and we would have had to leave the restaurant. Also, the people probably would have been offended andm after all, they were the ones who had the most to be pissed about, really. I knew he wasn’t going to be hurt – those people hadn’t poisoned their own french fries. And I was right there, the whole time, observing like a totally superfluous idiot. I also knew that they weren’t just politely tolerating my child, because I know the difference between “I Am Sincerely Enjoying This Interaction” and “Society Dictates That I Wear My Pleasant Face and Soldier Through This Episode”.
That doesn’t mean that I was enjoying this incident, however. I was actually quite embarrassed and a little troubled that my kid obviously didn’t give two hoots whose lap he was sitting on, as long as they had food. I know that this is a normal phase, where kids are like “I LOVE THE ENTIRE WORLD, INCLUDING BANANA SLUGS”, but it’s still not great to think “My kid would walk off with anyone who offered him anything with a flavor, or a toy car”.
Eventually, I brought the humiliating episode to a close by checking my phone and realizing that we had to get home to meet The Man after his work day. I packed up and we both said goodbye to Stranger Grandma and Stranger Grandpa, and their two granddaughters. The Boy had done a lot of playing, and had made some new friends.