Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mrs. Claus?

Last night at supper, I saw all the proof I need that angels walk among us. My mom is out of town and my dad didn’t feel like eating supper alone last night, so he invited Gracie and me out to a local restaurant to grab some grub. I met my dad and Gracie at the restaurant after work, and although upon arrival Gracie seemed to be in a decent mood, things quickly deteriorated into near-meltdown status. Everything seemed to irritate Grace, and even attempts to divert Grace’s attention toward Christmas lights and dancing Santa statues proved futile. She was clearly tired out from her day, and when my usually happy child gets tired, she gets cranky and inconsolable—it never fails. She seemed intent on saying, “No!” to everything and making the evening generally unpleasant.

The food finally arrived (I had ordered a kid’s hamburger and fries for Gracie per her request) and Grace didn’t want anything to do with her meal. She was vehemently opposed to eating anything other than packet after packet of Sweet ‘n’ Low. She was crawling around on the booth, lying on the floor next to the booth, crawling under the table, and basically doing anything she could to avoid eating. Try as we might, my poor dad and I couldn’t get her to sit still and eat. My dad even went so far as to get up from the table, walk Grace all the way over to the other end of the restaurant to find her a new high (and, apparently) better high chair, only to bring it back over to the table and have Gracie decide she didn’t want to sit in it.

I was rapidly reaching the end of my rope and was just about ready to chalk the meal up as a loss and leave the restaurant, when a little, plump old lady walked over to our table. Grace had decided for the moment that the high chair her grandpa sought out for her was fine to sit in, but she wouldn’t put the chair anywhere near the table, where her food was quickly becoming cold. The lady asked Gracie if Santa was coming to her house this year, and much to my surprise, Grace sat right up in her chair and carried on a conversation with this lady all about Santa and how she better eat her fries and hamburger so Santa would bring her lots of presents. Was this my shy and reserved child, carrying on a conversation with a stranger? Immediately, Grace scooted her chair over to the table and started munching happily on her supper. My dad and I stared at her, completely dumbfounded, and I felt almost embarrassed that this little old lady could make my daughter behave when my attempts were a waste of time. How was it that a complete stranger could accomplish what my dad and I clearly couldn’t? After a few minutes of chatting a little more with Gracie, the little old lady said goodbye to all of us and walked away, and Grace cheerfully ate the rest (well, just about the rest) of her supper.

I’m not sure who this little old lady was and I’m sure I’ll never see her again, but if I could, I would give her a big hug and thank her for her much-needed intervention. In a world full of people that often roll their eyes and sigh in annoyance at mothers who are struggling to control their children, it was refreshing to meet someone who was willing to lend a hand.