You ever see a person out in public, never meet, but somehow you always remember them?
A few months ago Brent and I were out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and there was a mom and two young children sitting to the side of us with only the walkway as space between our tables. The little girl was around 3 or 4, and adorable. The boy was probably 6. They were fairly behaved and pleasant. The boy had an iPad that he was playing games on. The little girl had a couple small trinkets keeping her busy. She was also asking her mom a lot of “Why” questions, as toddlers typically do.
Mom seemed very preoccupied. Almost, not there. She was on her iPhone most of the time. Junior was beginning to get antsy and working momma’s last nerve. She would snap at him, he would stop, she would continue on her phone and he would test her again. This went on for several minutes.
Finally their food came. Mom put her daughter’s trinkets away and sat her son’s iPad aside. She helped them get situated with their meals and they began to eat. Mom immediately grabbed her phone and continued on in whatever she was doing.
After a minute or so the boy slyly pulled his iPad over to him and started playing games again. Of course mom sees, because moms see everything… She demands he sets the iPad aside and, he does… temporarily. You guessed it – this interaction goes on for several minutes. Mom grew increasingly agitated and son relentlessly stood his, “If you’re on your phone during dinner then I’m gonna be on my iPad” ground.
Meanwhile, little sister is tossing her veggies on the floor.
At this point you may think I seem like a creeper. I mean, I have basically put before you their entire evening. But I couldn’t help myself. Something was drawing me to pay attention. Initially, and for quite some time, I was frustrated with the mom. I thought, lady… lead by example. You don’t want your kid on his electronics while eating, then get off of yours. And also… he’s acting out because he wants your attention, lady. Look up from your phone and notice that, won’t you?
They finish their meals, pay the bill, kids continue to play while mom’s messing around on her phone.
This is when it hits me. I never once saw mom smile. She never shared any words with her children, other than stop or don’t. I thought she was just an inattentive mother whose children would continue to act out until she gave them her time. I was so frustrated with her. Then, I caught a quick glimpse of her face as she looked up to discipline her son one last time before leaving… sadness. That’s what I saw. Sadness. Layers and layers of sadness. And my heart broke.
There was something deeper going on during dinner. And I had/have no idea what that was, but I did manage to judge her parenting most of the night. For all I know mom may have been in an email conversation with her lawyer because she is getting a divorce. Perhaps her mother lives states away and had fallen ill, so she was staying updated by text with her siblings. I don’t know what was going on, but I do know that judging her was not my place.
I am so quick to assume the worst in people sometimes. We just don’t know the back story because it isn’t our story… So how can we possibly conclude it for them? So next time, instead of spending so much thought time judging someone, I will pray a blessing over them. I will pray provision over them. I will pray protection over them. I will pray joy over them.