July 26, 2012

When parents react like children

Several years ago we were visiting Mr. Harper's family in El Paso.  Whenever we make the trip, Mr. H always has some old haunt that he wants us to experience.  For years I heard about Chico's Tacos and now wish that all I had was the stories.  I do not get the fascination with that dingy place.  I thought it was disgusting to have a paper boat of taquitos swimming in red sauce and smothered in yellow grated cheese.  Mr H was in heaven.

On one particular occasion seven-plus years ago, we were at a Mexican restaurant.  Our family of five (at that time) was seated in a booth with a high chair on the end for The Princess who was about 11-months old.  She liked to chew on things, are babies are wont to do.  We had been keeping her occupied with a straw.  Just a normal, restaurant straw from my iced tea.  The Princess had been gnawing on the straw for several minutes, as we all finished eating.   As Mr. H got up to pay the bill, he lifted TP out of the high chair and stood her on the booth next to me.  She still had the straw and was alternately chewing, and then pulling the straw out through her clenched teeth.  One of these motions caused the giant glob of saliva that was in the straw to fly through the air and land smack between the shoulder blades of the gentleman in the neighboring booth.

It landed with enough force that his hand immediately appeared, feeling around to see what had struck him on the back.  We sat petrified, watching as his fingertips missed the spreading wet spot by mere millimeters.

I failed miserably as a parent at this point.  I set the worst example possible.  I grabbed our things, hustled the kids out of the booth and ran for the car, turning Mr. H around mid-stride and giving him the 'I'll explain later' look.

I didn't apologize.  I didn't even acknowledge that my kid flung spit at the guy.  He was just seconds away from turning around and asking his wife to see if there was something on his back.  We would have been toast at that point, and the maximum allowable time for taking responsibility and salvaging the situation had already passed.

I've been back to El Paso since, but refuse to eat at that restaurant.  I am fairly certain that any rational human would have been understanding, if not a little disgusted, by a baby getting some of her saliva on him.   It was my reaction that was irrational.  And chicken shit.  I ran.  I don't even like to drive by that place anymore.  The guilt weighs heavy on my soul.

In my nightmares I still see that man's middle finger brush within a hair's width of the glistening pool of baby spit - and I still feel the adrenaline rush as we dove into the car as if we had just robbed the place.  I recall almost wetting my pants laughing - once we were well away from the scene - laughing at both the incident and my flight reflex overreaction.

I am sure that guy finally figured out that some sort of liquid was on his back, and that it came from our table.  Sorry, dude.  I should have said something.  

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