Yes That Was Me Crying at Steak n Shake

Eating out just isn’t what it used to be now that we have two kids in tow. Two very, very energetic kids.

As parents we have two choices. 1) We could hibernate and eat at home until the 17-month-old hits 3 years old, but that would necessitate either me or Mr. P cooking every night, and that’s no fun. Or 2) Take the little ones out once in awhile so they can strengthen their eating-out-in-public skills.

Every so often, we go with #2 because we are insane. However, #2 comes with a very tight set of rules:

  1. Choose only restaurants that supply a steady stream of crayons. And preferably where food is served immediately as opposed to being brought out by a panicked teen waitress who quickly understands why abstinence/contraception is so important at her age.
  2. Applebee’s is now a fancy restaurant and should only be saved for the most special of events. Like birthdays and anniversaries.
  3. When ordering, immediately request doggy bags, drinks in to-go cups and the check.

Usually, on our one night out a week, Mr. P and I can tag team the little ones. But last week, I went crazy and took them out to eat on my own while Mr. P was on a hunting trip.

It had been a long day at work, and I really wanted a double cheeseburger and a dark chocolate shake so we headed to the Steak ‘n Shake. Dinner started out great. The children colored quietly while I chatted with another mom from our daycare center who happened to sit at a table across from us.

Then, naturally, all hell broke loose. The 4-year-old spilled her milkshake which culminated in an unnecessary temper tantrum that rang through the restaurant. As I tried to calm her down and clean up the mess, the 17-month-old thought, “Hey, no one’s paying attention to me!” and proceeded to scream and shake her open raisin box like a maraca.

That’s when I heard it. From the older gentleman behind me.

“(Expletive!) If you can’t control your kids, don’t take them out to dinner,” he snarled to his wife.

I lost it. I slammed my napkins down, twirled around and growled, “Hey – it’s freakin’ Steak ‘n Shake! It’s one delicious step up from fast food! Cram some fries in your mouth and shut your pie hole!”

OK, I didn’t. Instead I…freaking…started…sobbing.

It was mortifying. The last thing I wanted to do was cry when the eyes of the entire restaurant were already on me. Nonetheless, my body chose to betray me – I got that burning knot in my throat, and my chin started trembling. I was just tired…and burnt out…and frustrated…and a little hurt. I don’t know what he wanted me to do – snatch the kids and run even though our food hadn’t arrived? Give my kid a swat on the behind to appease him and then have the rest of the restaurant descend on me for spanking a toddler?

Luckily, Daycare Mom #2 saw my distress and immediately gave me that look – “Do not cry. Do not let him upset you. Do not worry your child.” – and started playing peek-a-boo with my toddler so that I could regain my composure, clean up the milkshake and raisin grenade aftermath, and discipline the 4-year-old. While my kids continued to be their loud, mischievous selves, the rest of the dinner was free from meltdowns but packed with giggles and kisses and highlights from the 4-year-old’s day at preschool.

That’s when I realized, isn’t it great when we as parents look out for one another instead of looking away? That instead of shaking our heads in disgust when another parent is overwhelmed, we nod in support because we’ve been there before? Daycare Mom #2 might have went home that night and said, “God, Nicole’s children are horrible!”, but for that 20 seconds, she was my incredible support system with nothing more than a look and a game of peek-a-boo

And for that, Daycare Mom #2, I raise my dark chocolate shake to you.

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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