It was an unlikely group to grace a coffee shop with its presence—three generations: grandparents, parents, a boy of about five and a curly-haired girl about two years old. Before they even made it into the coffee shop just steps ahead of me, the little girl was whining and on the verge of pitching a fit. I mentally rolled my eyes—I was there to work on something with an actual deadline, having had trouble ignoring housework and laundry at home, and didn’t want the distraction of a whiney child. Then I told myself not to be that person. It’s bad enough I don’t like pets—now I’m not a fan of other people’s kids, too?
So I followed them in and got my simple cup of coffee while they discussed the menu board. The little girl kept yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! Juice! Juice! Juice! Juice!” No one acknowledged her demands so she just kept demanding.
I found a spot and set up my computer, but it’s a small shop and I was twelve feet at most from their table. The grandparents sat down, then the kids came to claim a chair—the same chair. The little girl made that pre-verbal “Nnnnnnnuh!” roar and pushed her brother off. Imperiously she pointed at an empty chair. He took it without complaint.
Soon Grandma was standing by the girl’s chair, telling her to sit or kneel so she wouldn’t fall. Eventually the little girl let one knee hit the seat of the chair for a moment and Grandma went back to her chair. In minutes they were at it again, and Grandma muttered something about a high chair. Grandpa said, “Or a strait jacket.” I thought that sounded like a fine idea.
When the parents joined them there was much fuss about where everyone would sit, and the little girl decided she would abandon her chair and sit on her mother’s lap, to whine and cry and yell. Half the time the mother was trying to keep the child from slithering off her lap, or guard her coffee from being knocked across the table.
Shall I quit with the blow-by-blow? I think so. It didn’t get any better. The food was not to her liking, the company not to her liking, apparently nothing met her standards. Lacking vocabulary, she cried and roared and pounded and threw.
Dad plowed through his breakfast and ignored the uproar. Mom placated, wrestled, dodged, distracted, tried everything she could. Except, of course, discipline.
Once the parents and grandparents bolted their meals, Grandma stayed behind with Dad to help him clear the incredible wasteland that had once been a table. Well, I thought she stayed to help. As soon as the mommy was out the door, Grandma began lecturing the daddy on “that’s the only way she’s going to learn. And you’re going to have to do it. That’s the only way she’s going to learn.” I listened desperately to find out Grandma’s secret to containing the little monster, but missed that part.
I heard what the daddy said, though: “You’re right. You’re right. You’re right.”I got the feeling they’d had that conversation before—and would have it again.