I met my dear friend and fellow-writer, Julaina Kleist-Corwin, for lunch on Monday. It had been months since we enjoyed time together, and we carved out two hours to catch up. We had so many things to discuss. Her writing, my writing, Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon, writing distractions, parents, husbands, marketing, the online class she is going to teach, mutual friends, the sad state of politics in this country, the soup of the day. And eventually a topic neither of us would have imagined we’d touch on: child-rearing.
We were discussing riffing, a technique for improving your writing, when a man with two small boys walked in and took a table next to us. I’d have pegged the little ones as maybe a two-year-old and a four-year-old. For the next hour, Julaina and I raised our voices to be heard over the ruckus of yelling, screaming children who thought tantrums were part of lunch protocol. I wondered why the harried father hadn’t just bought sub sandwiches and taken his little ones to a park. Everyone would have been happier.
When the family finally left, and the bus staff had cleaned up the mess, another man with two small boys came in and sat down next to us. We couldn’t believe our good fortune. However, these two children were not at all like their earlier counterparts.
“Your boys are incredible,” I said to the father before I left. “How old are they?”
“They’re twins. Fourteen-months-old.”
Not all children are alike. My two grandsons are as different as ice cream and Brussels sprouts. I took Ezra to El Buen Sabor from the time he was one year old. As he added months to his age, our discussions deepened. We’d sit, eat chicken tacos and carry on real conversations. Noah? Although equally sweet, as a two-year-old, he unscrewed the salt shaker and dumped salt in his water. He stirred this concoction with his straw. He opened the pepper and in a sneezing frenzy tipped over his water. I didn’t have enough hands to keep up with him. I took a wad of napkins from the dispenser, sopped up the mess he’d lovingly created, and got him out of there as quickly as my clean-up efforts allowed.
I am fond of children. All children. I adored my own children when they were little—and still do. I dote on my grandchildren. I love Noah as much as I love Ezra. But Noah is a child who prefers sub sandwiches in a park where he can climb trees, swing from bars, and run wild.
When I raised my own children, I was a frazzled, single mother who made countless mistakes. I would never have been nominated mother of the year. But the following two axioms served me pretty well:
- Strangers don’t love my children as much as I do.
- If my child is creating a major, ongoing disturbance in a restaurant, it is up to me to remove him or her from the eatery.
Am I an ogre or is this just common sense?