I say breeders because that is what they are. I like to adhere to some level of accuracy when I complain about things. It gives me the illusion that I’m practicing honest journalism. If I were to call them parents I would be doing the actual parenting world an injustice because, in my book, parenting requires actually raising a kid. It’s cultivating a life. My parents were actual parents. My best friend (the mother of my godson) is a parent. My gay uncle and his fiancé would make wonderful parents.
These people were not parents. These were breeders—and I would like to take this time to explain why.
So I’m finishing up cleaning my tables at the restaurant last night when my friend Kat comes over to me and tells me that my side-work is to clean the head-wait tables. Just to clarify for those of you who have managed to evade the restaurant business altogether: a head-wait is the person assigned to do the bookkeeping for the night. This is the person who counts out all of the money, divvies up the tip-share for the buss-boys, bartenders, hostesses, etc. and makes sure the numbers all add up. For a restaurant as big as the one I work in, this takes a lot of time. It is for that reason that, on a Friday or Saturday night, the head-wait is given a get-out-of-cleaning free pass. Someone else merely takes over. Last night it was me.
Not too much of a big deal—you sanitize the tables and wash them off with hot water. You roll some silverware and you clean off the booths and the wooden areas and you refill the oil decanters. Takes like five minutes.
So I mosey on over to Mary’s section. (Mary had booth number 14, booth number 15 and table number 25.)
I start to clean. Somewhere in my peripheral vision I see that there is a tiny shadow looming over me. I ignore it. At this point in the night I am tired and I am hungry and I do not feel the need to pay any attention to anything that is not directly Kara-related. It doesn’t concern me. The most attention I paid this little shadow is that I noticed it was squeaking and pointing at my head.
I clean the cushions of the first booth and flip them down under the table so that when Kat checks me all she has to do is look to see that I have, in fact, rid it of anything cockroach-friendly or sticky. I move on to the second cushion. I hear some trinket or other drop down onto the exposed wood of the seat I’ve just cleaned. The shadow thing squeals in anguish.
I look up to see the distressed eyes of a soon-to-be morbidly obese toddler down at me from the top of the booth. Its parents, of course, are deeply engrossed in their conversation and have yet to notice that it is upset. I take pity on it. I get up from what I am doing and walk around the booth to the other side. Aww, I think, it dropped it’s crayon. “Here, buddy, I’ll get that for you.”
I then proceed to pick up the crayon and put it down in front of the toddler-thing.
I turn to go back to what I am doing.
I here a little thump much like the last one. Another squeal. The toddler-thing has thrown his crayon back down onto the seat. Now I don’t care.
It starts to scream indiscernible babble at me and points at its crayon. Psh. My little sister had colic when she was a baby. Scream your head off. I’m immune.
I start to hear something else: the scraping of little kreaton shoes on wood. I look up again. The toddler thing is now heaving its larger-than-healthy body up over the back of the booth. He has decided to take matters into his own hands. He wants his damn crayon.
At this point, I move the coffee cup of hot water (that I’m using to clean said booth) over to the other side where he can’t knock it over and burn his little chubby arms. I’m a jerk. I’m not cruel.
I also handed the little twerp his crayon.
Then I hear something else.
It is the parents’ friends. They start laughing because, and I quote, “hahaha! She’s babysitting your kid!!”
My eye twitched. Babysitting?! I have not babysat since I was twelve years old. My relatives quickly realized that I am not psychologically sound enough to deal with their little kids. I am not babysitting anything.
To take a stand, I swear to myself that I will not help this child one more time.
“She’s not babysitting,” the father laughs, “They’re flirting. Ask for her number! Ask if she has a boyfriend!”
It is then that I realize that the father is not with a wifey thing. I decide that, despite my current single-dom, I am officially in a relationship for as long as he is in the restaurant. I go about my business.
More scraping of light-up tot-shoes against more wood. Now the sound is traveling. I look up and nearly drop the oil decanter in my hand.
Realizing that I am not going to respond to his antics, the father has returned to his conversation and allowed his crayon-flinging creature to run amuck. I am not in favor of child leashes…except in this one very specific case.
The kid has cleared the high-backed booth and is now dancing around on the wooden seat I’ve just cleaned, throwing more crayons in every-which-direction. I just stood there in a stupor. He climbs up on top of the table I’ve just sanitized and runs across it to the other side of the booth: on the back of which sits that coffee cup of hot water I’d moved out of his way.
“No!” I shout, dashing over to his reaching chubby little hand. “No, sweetie, that’s hot! You don’t want it, trust me.”
More laughter from dad-of-the-year. I grumble and take my hot water over to another table, out of this little doomed creature’s grasp.
“Come on, buddy, ask for her number! Tell her you like her pretty face and her smile!”
I’m going to splash hot water into your pretty face…
So I grab my friend Brian and pull him over to the other side of the restaurant. Brian—a sassy gay man who thinks this is hilarious—listens to me rant about how I am going to gleefully dropkick this so-called “parent” if he doesn’t control his animal. Brian, another friend (Mark) and another friend who is about to try for a baby of his own with his wife (Vega) all chuckle and tell me that they will help hold him down if I want to take a punch.
See, this is my problem. I am encouraged. I need friends that are going to tell me No, Kara…be a good person. But instead everyone just let’s me be a crazy person. I think it is because I’m the size of a third-grader.
So I wander over there and replace the oil decanters. I look up. The wild-child has sat himself down at the table I’d cleaned and has begun amusing himself with the table tent that shows off the quarter’s specials.
He’s taken the whole thing apart. I watch as he uses the various pieces as blocks. He actually begins to build something that resembles a house of cards. He makes an archway. He builds from that. He creates a wall branching out from the archway and looks for other things on the table to support it with.
This kid is like two. He’s not even talking yet. I felt my typically cold heart melt. Oh my god, I think to myself, he’s a little architect!! Just like my dad!!
I then begin to feel terrible for him. There’s a brain working inside that little head of his—and with the right amount of guidance and discipline, this child could actually go on to build skyscrapers and strip malls (or, in the more preferable case, something beautiful like the buildings of Frank Loyde Wright!!) But, instead, he has a father who has brought him to a restaurant at 12 o’clock at night instead of putting him to bed. This father is not paying any attention to what he is doing—he is not telling him to stop or at least building table-tent buildings with him at the table. This father is using him as an excuse to talk to disgruntled girls and otherwise allowing him to fend for himself.
Now I really wanted to punch him.
That moment, before all of you start getting the wrong impression about me, quickly dissipated. The table-tent structure collapsed and the toddler thing let out an ear-splitting scream that could wake the dead.
Annnnd I no longer care.
I marched to the back, handed Mary my check-out, and began to make my way through the restaurant. On their way out the door, the man says “hey, thanks for watching him when he was over there.”
I raised my eyebrows, silently nodded, and walked away before I allowed myself to make the decision to follow him out into the parking lot with a blunt object.
Instead, I decided to blog about it.