Sunday, April 13, 2014

To the Woman at Jim's Restaurant

Dear Woman at Jim's Restaurant on IH-10 This Morning, Palm Sunday:

Hi there.  You don't know me, even though you think you might, after witnessing what was definitely not one of my finest hours as a parent.

I'm the person for whom you left a note.  The note I never read, because I have the greatest husband in the world that would do anything to protect me.

I just have a few questions for you, despite the unlikelihood that you'll see this.

When you placed your handwritten, back-of-the-receipt note next to me, what exactly did you think you would accomplish?

Did you expect I might be mad?
Did you think you'd make me cry?
Did you just want to vent?

Were you thinking, "Maybe if I let this woman know what a horrible mother she is, I'll be doing the world a favor."

Were you thinking, "If I point out this mother's mistakes, maybe she'll change her ways.  Surely she can take some criticism from a complete stranger about her parenting skills."

Were you thinking, "Those children are just angels.  Why would that terrible ogre of a mother be angry or frustrated in the least?  Poor little things. They don't deserve this."

Were you thinking, "You know, it's Palm Sunday...I think I'll show what a good Christian I am by letting this woman know her parenting tactics are too brutal for those innocent kids."

Were you thinking, "There's no way that mother could be having a really bad morning in any way.  I really should not cut her any slack, whatsoever."

Were you thinking, "I really want to make sure that woman cries today."

Were you thinking, "I hope this reinforces any self-doubts she already has."

Were you thinking, "I hope this woman understands that not all women support her role."

Were you thinking, "Children like that shouldn't be in restaurants if parents can't handle them."

Were you thinking, "What is wrong with your kid?"

Were you thinking, "What is wrong with that mother?"

I wondered all of these things after finding out you left a note for me.

A note that my husband saw you slip stealthily beside me before you walked out of the restaurant.  He reached over and took it while I obliviously attempted to calm my 6 year old daughter Paige--and myself--down after she fell on the floor in the restaurant.  This, after a morning of Easter Bunny pictures and many wrong decisions according to Phoebe, our autistic 8 year old daughter.  Nothing was right for her that morning--lots of stimming, yelling, and tears.  We met friends at Jim's, a local favorite coffee shop/restaurant.  It was already loud and busy when we got there; Paige's fall just added to the chaos.  She slipped on spilled liquid and down she went, in a very narrow area on the way to our table. Paige couldn't hear me because she was crying after she fell, so I picked her up to her feet and told her to walk. "Come on, Paige.  Come on.  You're okay.  We will look at it when we sit down.  Let's go."  Phoebe was in between us, not moving.  "Phoebe.  Phoebe!  GO!  Let's go." (ensue yelling from Phoebe) All of this rough communication was transpiring in the area where the waitstaff come out of the kitchen so I was in a bit of a panic--I needed to get my kids to move to get out of their way.  Yet every single time I attempted to walk, I ended up stepping on Paige's toe because she would NOT move.  So, we finally get to the table, and I was just about at the end of my rope.  Yes, I was short with them.  Yes, I was probably a little loud.  Yes, I was frustrated.  All I wanted to do was sit down. We got Paige calmed down, inspected her leg, talked to the waitress about her slipping, got Phoebe settled, crayons were opened, juice in front of them, and I found myself checking Paige's leg again to see if there's swelling, talking to her about watching her step.  That's when you swooped in with your note.

I saw Matt reading something, perhaps a receipt? That's what it looked like. He was frowning.

I noticed handwriting on the back of it and asked, "What's that?"

He looked up at me, closed the paper up, and said matter-of-factly, "You don't need to know."

I said, "What? What is it?"

He replied, "It's a note.  I saw a lady put it next to you before she walked out.  You don't want to read it."

He then tore it up into tiny pieces and threw it on the floor.  He was visibly disgusted.

My heart sank.  I think I knew what it said, even though I really didn't know.  For a second, though--just a little second--I thought maybe some wonderfully understanding Mom might have written me a note of encouragement...a little, "Hang in there, it will get better." because you know on days like this we could all use one.


You spanked me.

I'm 43 years old, mother of two, a wife...and I got spanked by you.  Hard.

All my insecurities about who I am as a mother--well, really, as a person--came hurtling toward the surface of my very soul.  In ten seconds--the ten seconds it took me to even process what had just happened--without even reading your words--my confidence about my mothering skills (including the ones necessary to raise an autistic child) were shattered.  As much as I hated myself for doing it, I began to tear up.  Right there in Jim's.  I that was what you wanted, too?

Matt reached over and took my hand.  He smiled at me.  He said, "You don't need to worry about that."  His love for me was so great, even at that moment when I was perhaps acting very ugly, that he would not let me see your hurtful words.  This made me even more sad, because I knew he was the one that had to read it.  He knew what you wrote.  It hurt him, too.  Did you want that as well?

As we sat in silence, simmering and processing, I realized that maybe this was a lesson for me for Palm Sunday.  Jesus went into Jerusalem, and even though there were so many people that loved and supported him, showing their appreciation with palms laid down as he entered the city, there were others that were not so loving, and not so supportive--and in the end, these people cheered his death.  But Jesus remained steadfast and loved them, anyway.  He loved them anyway. It was a lesson in forgiveness for me.

So, Woman at Jim's Restaurant, while I don't really want to "thank you",  I feel I should.  I must also let you know that despite your questionable intentions, you did not make me sad for very long. Because as we ate our breakfast and talked with our friends and our kids, our smiles came back and soon enough we were laughing. Additionally, I forgive you.  I forgive whatever it was you were trying to do.  I will never know what that was specifically, but I have an idea. You are forgiven.  And may you forgive anyone that chooses to criticize your parenting on any day, not just one of your bad ones.

God bless you.


Polly McDonald


  1. Well as your loyal friend and guest at the table, you are a better person than I am. Now if I take off my mom hat for a moment. I have degree in psychology and almost done with a Masters in a specialized field. There was nothing that was done, no behavior on your part.. NOTHING that would have warranted a "note" a public scolding from ANYONE. At first when I heard..."a note" I thought... "Oh some kind stranger is going to say something NICE (oooh buy our breakfast LoL)!" the LAST thing I would have suspected was a mean note. I am sorry some ANONYMOUS COWARD thought it was okay to ruin your day and they didn't even have the balls to speak to your face to face like a WOMAN ( not that we have balls but YKWIM) they SLITHERED AWAY LIKE A WORM to avoid a reply. I guarantee this woman ? Man? person will remember this day, during a low point in their life in the future and they will think..."oh thats how that feels" . And your husband is the shiznit for not letting us read it....

  2. I don't know you. I read this as a share from another autism mom. No, I don't know you. But I could be you. God knows I have had bad days, overwhelming days, days when I am short, have little patience and am JUST TRYING TO GET THROUGH after a good idea goes very wrong. I could be you. Heck. I AM you.

    And, I'm here to say, "Hang in there, Mama. You got this."

    1. Thank you so much! "Just trying to get through after a good idea goes very wrong."--could not have said it better.

  3. Wow. I don't know you either and I am not a mom, but I still think that was terrible. What a stone she cast. Ew.

  4. EVERY mama has moments that she's not proud of, and I know I've had my share with my daughter with autism AND my typical kids. Those moments are when we most need encouragement, support, and love. Excellent job to your husband for shielding you, and giving you the good stuff you needed! Fantastic job to you for being graceful and forgiving when it is SO hard! God's blessings on you and your family.

    1. Thank you so much! I really did not feel very forgiving at the time. LOL. I just knew I had to be, though. ;)

  5. I don't you either as I found this through a link on the story about the man who helped a woman with her 3 year old autistic child on a plane trip. I don't have an autistic child but my kids have acted out and or gotten hurt at the most awkward moments too. Yes, I've spoken harshly to them in frustration too. I've had others "look" at me like I have 3 heads. We are all in this struggle together. We all have children who, despite our best wishes, do not always act like perfect angels. Honestly, I don't think I'd like that too much, life would be boring. Over time, I've developed very thick skin. If that note had reached me, I'd have been angry for a few minutes but in the end, it wouldn't have made any difference to me what a strangers' opinion was. I'm sorry your arrival to the restaurant was so hard and that your husband had to read someone's vile. You are a much better person than I because I don't think I'd have forgiven someone so low. You are an inspiration! I will work harder to not hold onto the hurts that get to me and try to forgive sooner than later.

    1. Yes, I can relate to the "3 heads" comment! LOL! I normally let those looks roll like water off a duck's back but wow, when it's in your face--that's hard to do. My husband did the right thing, because I fear if I did see the note first--I'd have tracked that girl down in the parking lot and that would have been very ugly for sure on my part.

  6. Polly - wow. Found this from a shared link on FB. I am stunned at what that woman did, but I'm in awe of how you've handled it. I am a mom (though my "baby" is almost grown), and I've been trying *really* hard lately to find opportunities to reassure young moms and dads that they, too, are doing JUST FINE, in hopes that I can counteract the destructive effect of people like Ms. Note-writer. (Which - by the way - how passive aggressive can someone get? Dumping an acid note on somebody else's table as they're *leaving*? Wow. Just - wow, lady.) Well done, mom. You're doing JUST FINE.

    1. Thanks, Annie! Love your words of encouragement! Definitely a passive aggressive moment!