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.”
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.