On Saturday night, we decided to meet some friends at the opening of a new family friendly restaurant. When we walked in, the lights were dancing and you could smell the polished hardwood floors. We headed straight to a table in the back and my daughter started jumping in excitement when she saw two of her favorite friends. They immediately clasped hands and jumped up and down, unable to control their excitement.

By pure coincidence, there was a another couple sitting in the opposite corner who knew my friends and their children quite well.  My daughter and her two friends enjoyed going back and forth from our table to this couple’s table.  I have to admit there might have been some fast walking (ok, actually some running) involved as the girls clasped hands and darted from us to them. To be clear, this wasn’t a five star restaurant, where lights are dimmed and couples are holding hands and exchanging intimate conversation. The general atmosphere was loud and chaotic since it was the first night the restaurant had opened. Each table was occupied mainly by families, most with at least two or three children.

At one point, I walked the three girls to the restroom, and as I was approaching the bathroom door, a woman calls out to me and asks me to approach her table. There were four women sitting at the table and for some reason I thought they were calling me over for a benign reason. In my head, I thought, maybe she recognizes me or likes my shirt or my sandals. What happened next surprised me.

The woman with the white shirt and black bottle-rimmed glasses, asked me “Are these your children?”

I responded with, “Yes.” At this point, I had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be a friendly exchange and so I didn’t explain to her  that only one of these girls was my daughter.

After a short pause, the woman proceeded and said, “You know you really should  be raising your children better. They have been walking back and forth and it just isn’t appropriate. And plus, it is rather annoying.”

I didn’t respond. I looked at her and just walked straight into the bathroom, the girls tailing behind me ready to do their business. I stood in the middle of the bathroom, fuming, not knowing what to do with a stranger’s callous remark. I don’t know if walking away was the right thing, but I didn’t really want to respond to this lady’s allegation.

She didn’t know me. She doesn’t know how I raise my daughter. I recognized that she had made up her mind and  I really didn’t want to exchange views about child rearing with someone I had only met  seconds ago.

It did leave me thinking about what people will say to a stranger. Was she having a bad day? Did she decide to take it out on me and my “children” ? I really don’t know the answer of why she was motivated to say those particular words to me. I realize that my daughter and her friends might have been a little disruptive, but I don’t believe that their behavior warranted the phrase she used.

We walked back to our table, anticipating our dessert.  The three girls sipped a chocolate shake from the same glass, giggling at the sight of their straws. Looking at them, I forgot the woman and her words. I saw my daughter and her radiating exuberance and knew I was raising her exactly how I wanted – with unbridled happiness.

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What would you do in the above situation? Would you walk away or respond? Has a stranger ever admonished your behavior or your children’s actions? What was your response?

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