What Screaming Child?

I had the pleasure and good fortune to go out to dinner with a few close friends I’ve known for ages while I was in Wisconsin a little over a week ago. We went to one of my favorite places to eat, and we got to catch up on the lives we’ve been living at a distance from each other for far too long.

I’m thrilled for these individuals because it seems like things are going well for them, they look happy and healthy and beautiful, and I took note of just how much I miss hanging out with them on a regular basis.

As many of my handful of readers know, James and I are seriously considering a move back to Wisconsin to be closer to family and get our financial situation more under control. Being able to see these friends, among others, is one item that definitely goes in the “pro” column for this particular decision.

But it might not really be that simple to slip back into that place. You see, our relationship has shifted, probably having a lot to do with the current distance. But I think it also has a little bit to do with my life and experience as a parent. I noticed this very acutely as we were chatting at our table in the restaurant, and one friend was getting especially irritated, frequently glancing over at something a few tables away from ours. Finally, there came the offhand comment that people should not bring screaming children to restaurants.

Now, before I was a parent, I may have agreed with the statement. But as a parent, the first thing I observed in myself was how I hadn’t even noticed that the sound of said screaming child was even a part of the cacophonous mingle of crowded restaurant noises. The second thing, as a parent, I pointed out that the child in question is not usually screaming when you choose to bring them to a restaurant.

We all have our days. The high-pitched squeal of someone under five is not always music to my ears, especially in close quarters, as I happen to spend many of my own hours with someone of that particular demographic. And the fact that a child screaming at a restaurant bothered one of my good friends is not necessarily any huge deal to me. When I’m out with my kid, I do my very best to help him stay under the radar, so to speak. I try to teach him at home what’s appropriate so that on the rare occasions we do go out, he understands what’s expected of him. But sometimes, kids are just kids. Unless it’s totally out of hand, the occasional outburst will happen, and we parents just have to hope that no one’s whole evening is ruined because of it.

The thing is, most of my close friends I’ve had forever are not yet to the parenting phase of their journeys, if it’s even in the cards for them at all. And that’s fine, I’ll go ahead and envy them their sleep, double incomes and free time, but I’m sitting right here in the thick of it, and there is no denying that this simple fact has changed the way I experience the world. And a small part of me is actually afraid that this change could turn out to be a line that keeps me at a distance from certain people, even if I end up in closer physical proximity.

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