People Watching

For several years I’ve been in restaurants, catching flying splatters of food and asking my child to sit still and eat, while I enviously eyed those headphone-wearing, laptop-toting, coffee-drinking solo patrons relaxing around me.  Tonight I am one of them, and I have to say, it’s just as awesome as I imagined.  These are the types of things I took for granted before I lost the option to finish a cup of coffee while it is still hot.  So here I sit, ignored by the constant flow of people coming and going, and have very wisely switched to decaf.

Even though I am attempting to “escape” for a little while, I notice that I keep getting distracted from my solitary screen-staring by the real life going on around me.  The young couple with a new baby and a two-year-old taking turns eating and parenting, strained smiles and sleepy eyes.  The very serious-looking teenager sitting with her parents and talking about very serious-looking things.  The twenty-something guy who breaks into a grin as he texts or tweets or posts from his cell phone while waiting for his dinner.  The fellow laptop guy who asks me to watch his stuff as he gets up from the table, since I must be much less likely to swipe his things while I am busy with my own.

Then there are those that catch my attention because they hit a little closer to home.  The high-pitched story-telling I can hear from the kindergartner talking to her mom about school.  Watching her bounce around her table and eyeball my coffee as her mom coaxes her back.  I can’t help but smile at her, which I’m sure isn’t helping mom’s case.  I always find it comforting when I see other little people floating around and other parents futilely trying to pull them back, because at least I know it’s not just me who can’t do it.  I also find it both comforting and sad to hear the exasperated mom in the bathroom with two girls under 6.  Comforting because the words coming out of her mouth are so very similar to the ones I have heard myself using, sad because they are words like stop, no, child’s name in an exhausted whine, repeating the same commands in a louder voice in the hopes that maybe it just wasn’t loud enough the first time, etc.  The ugly is always uglier when I see it reflected by someone else.  Thankfully it is quickly followed by compassion and a vow to not be the mom that reminds other moms to stop being so cranky.

We could all learn a thing or two from each other.  I raise my cup to you, exasperated bathroom mom, and hope that you can find yourself restfully pondering other people someday soon.

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