We scanned the restaurant for a table. One in the back, I thought, so we can just “be”. We were coming from occupational therapy. An hour where bug slams into mats, sticks her hands in foam, stacks blocks, scribbles chalk, swings in a cocoon and works on her feeding issues. It’s an exhausting hour and that’s just me.
I had Landon on my hip, nose goopy and running, my huge heavy purse slung over me, two cups, our order number card as I awkwardly pushed a high chair. I noticed a family across the way and a few folks eating alone nearby. One guy smiled knowingly at me. “He’s got kids,” I thought.
As bug craned her entire body out of the high chair demanding my iPhone, I eagerly gave up just to make the noise stop. Elmo played and I pulled off bites of her pb&j for her; scattered chips on top of a paper napkin. I’m never that mom that remembers to buy those disposible place mats for situations like these. She chomped on a chip. Smeared jelly on her face. Tugged on her bahas. As she squawked again for a slug from my water cup, I saw them. Three little heads turned our way. Sisters ranging from 8 to about 14. Staring. One’s mouth had parted. Gawking.
My face burned. My stomach tightened. Immediately, without pause, I glared. A seething glare with squinted eyes and pursed lips. I felt my face flush and realized what I was doing. My instinctive mother lion snarl. I’m pretty sure that if it were common to growl… I would have.
Their father was with them but never looked up from his food. Never met my gaze. The oldest girl did and un-phased she went on to stare more at Landon. My grimace thwarted.
I didn’t look their way the rest of our meal. I shoveled salad quickly in my face as I tried to get Landon to look up from Elmo long enough to swallow anything. As I wiped off her hands and face, she screamed again. The girls were closer now as they put up their trays. As they looked again, I faked a smile. Take that… stupid tweens.
As we drove home, I thought carefully about my reaction. Will it always be this way? Will my ferocity to protect her consistently give off such rage? Will I get better at this? How is it that my husband doesn’t even notice people when they stare? It never affects him in the slightest. I may never fully attain such a state of nirvana, but surely… hopefully… I’ll be that example for her. More along the lines of “oh… you’re staring, must be because she’s so beautiful.” Because, my God, she is.