I went to Chick Fil A, taking my kids to lunch with me as a way to get them out of the house and, effectively, off my back about “doing something fun” today. If you’re unaware, this particular fast food chain is basically heaven on earth. I’ve never been to any location that wasn’t clean and the employees weren’t overly nice. Our hometown location is particularly friendly and our orders always fresh. And the fact that they have a play structure in house (that gets cleaned more often than the disease ridden McD’s) is the cherry on top. So today, we were excited to eat out and end with a traditional ice cream cone. Unfortunately, my character was called into judgement when I overheard a not-so-subtle lady make a rude comment about me to her friend.
My kids are five and three, and both are picky eaters. I mean, what kids aren’t at that age? Whenever we go somewhere with a play structure, they almost entirely forget they were “starving” a second ago and just want to rush through lunch so they can play. Again, very typical of kids this age. Knowing this, on top of always having our family finances weighing on my mind, I usually only get one kid’s meal for them to share. At Chick Fil A, there’s an option for a delicious six-count chicken nugget meal, so that is my go-to selection. Each kid gets three nuggets, they share the surprisingly generous fruit cup, and then I buy an extra milk or apple juice so each can have their own drink. This, combined with sharing my waffle fries, is usually all I can get them to eat before they rush off to play. And it has always been enough. Sure, soon they will both be eating more and will require I loosen my tight grip on my wallet to order two kid’s meals. When that day comes, they’ll know it and I’ll know it, and each kid will get their own meal.
One more thing you should know about Chick Fil A before we get to the lady I’ve affectionately nick-named Judgy McJudgerson: they give you the option of returning your unopened kid’s meal toy for a kid’s size ice cream cone, complete with sprinkles. Of course my kids always go this route! But one kid’s meal means one toy, which means only one ice cream cone. Obviously I know an option would be to then buy an additional cone for my second child. But my kids are, and have always been, great at sharing and they never mind splitting one cone. Instead, they’re just excited and grateful for what they do get! Imagine that!
So today, when my daughter swapped her toy for the prized cone and began sharing evenly with her brother, lick for lick, all seemed fine and normal. They were happily snacking away when I heard the comment: “Ugh, look at that. She couldn’t even buy her other kid his own cone? The poor boy.” To which her companion responded, “Come on, it’s only a few cents more.”
Um, excuse me? I doubled checked and sure enough, they were looking right at me. I instantly had some questions and choice words I wanted to turn around and share. I chose to hold it in, since I was honestly shocked at the absolute obviousness in which they weren’t trying to hide their judgement. But I’ll say it now:
Number one, how dare you.
Number two, why do you care?
Number three, if it bothers you so much and only costs “a few cents more,” couldn’t you have bought the cone for him and made my day with your kind gesture?
It’s no wonder why so many parents are instantly on defense when in public with their kids. In today’s world, mom shaming is unfortunately so frequent, parents are forced to build an armor to protect themselves from on-lookers. At any moment, we can be called out on something we weren’t expecting and doesn’t matter, like forcing children to share an ice cream cone. And for some reason, we’ve become a nation where we think our every opinion needs to be shared, out-loud.
These women made judgments without bothering to consider any other perspective. They threw opinions into the air without bothering to quiet their voices or use social niceties. And they chose to think the worst of me, in a situation where it would’ve been just as easy to choose kindness.
As annoying as these ladies were, let’s all learn from them. Let’s learn what NOT to do and ask ourselves, “what would we have done in this situation, if we chose kindness instead?” And let’s extend that line of thinking to other scenarios as well. Most of us can understand how silly it was to be so vocally judgmental over a simple ice cream cone. But what about the cases where we see a mom at the park taking a phone break? Or the screaming child in a busy store scenario? Or any other situation that seems to bother on-lookers so much?
Can we all take a second to recommit ourselves to responding with understanding, giving the benefit of the doubt, and choosing kindness whenever possible?