You’re either a dog person or a cat person.
Coffee or tea.
National League or American League.
Toilet paper goes over the top or toilet paper comes from the bottom.
Mac or PC.
And in my 9+ years of parenting, I’ve come to learn that there is another important distinction between groups of parents.
There is the Camp of OMG We Must Leave This Restaurant ASAP Because Our Baby Is Screaming Like I Am Poking Her With A Cattle Brand, and there is the Camp of Live and Let Scream.
Or, as I like to call them, The People That Care That Their Child Is Probably Interrupting Some Other Sleep-Deprived Parent’s First Date Night in 6 Months, And The People That Don’t.
Right before Boy Wonder was born, a friend gave me this advice:
You have to make the baby fit into your life. You don’t fit into theirs.
I was buoyed by the idea that parenting didn’t have to mean a lifetime of sacrifice and giving up some of the things I really love.
I took this advice and we set out to fit Boy Wonder into our life – of eating out a whole hell of a lot. Eating out with baby was not going to be an issue.
When he was a few weeks old, we marched right in to the Sesame Inn and ordered our favorite Chinese food.
What the hell? I thought. He’s got a clean diaper. I just freaking fed him. He burped. What is the DEAL, dude? Don’t you get that I want my Kung Pao Chicken and I want it now? Did you miss the memo that YOU are fitting into OUR lives?
This was not just a little whimper and cry-for-a-few-minutes-then-settle-back-down. This was Defcon 5. Code Blue.
After getting over my initial “you’re inconveniencing me greatly” thoughts, panic settled in. I watched the other restaurant patrons turn around and look at me.
I don’t like being looked at when I’ve just had my hair done, let alone when I’ve probably got leaky boobs and I”m trying to soothe an alien baby whose cries might prompt a call to Child Protective Services at any moment.
Every nerve ending of my body was on high alert. I silently prayed, I rocked him, I shushed, I looked pleadingly at my husband to figure out what the heck we could do so I could START MY KUNG PAO CHICKEN ALREADY. The PLAN was to fit this baby into our life, dammit. But the Be Kind To Others side of my brain was shouting at me to stop ruining other people’s dinners and leave. My husband’s brain was shouting at him, too. We left.
We quickly discovered that Boy Wonder had colic. And hated his infant seat. And hated the Bjorn.
Basically, he hated all states of being besides eating. And even Eating Bliss lasted all of maybe 7 minutes and 6 seconds.
Going to restaurants was the single most exhausting activity I could think of. To spend $50 to be miserable, to make everyone around us miserable AND to still be hungry when we left takes a special kind of insanity.
So we stopped doing it – for years.
I simply couldn’t deal with the pressure that I might be disturbing other people in the restaurant. I couldn’t bear the thought that there was another couple in the room who desperately needed to have a quiet dinner and my Baby Who I Failed At Fitting Into My Life was ruining it for them.
And so I don’t get – and have never gotten – the Live and Let Scream Camp.
My husband and I were out to dinner on Friday night. It was the first time we’d been out for an evening alone in months. We went to a pretty nice restaurant, got seated and were immediately greeted by a wailing baby 2 tables over.
I watched the mom. The picture of serenity. Unflappable. Languidly lounging with one arm draped over the back of the banquette and the other holding a glass of wine. She was unfazed that her baby sounded like she was being dangled upside down by her big toenail and used as a human pinata.
Clearly, they were Live and Let Scream-ers.
I wondered to myself who was more wrong: that mom, who claimed her meal as her own and didn’t care whether Pinata Baby disrupted 30 minutes of my date night, or me, who was always too worried about what people thought to even give myself permission to let my kid scream for more than 2 minutes.
Maybe the rightness lies somewhere in the middle.
What camp are you in?