Dear Parents Who Let Your Kids Run Wild in the Community Room at Panera Last Saturday:
I like to think that you didn’t know we were back there — my friend Ashley and me — in the “Community Room” at the Panera Bread in Ramsey, New Jersey. Or that you had no idea that your children were running around in circles letting out shrieks that little girls are known for when they’re exceptionally happy. And they were. I mean, they were running in circles in a Panera. How can than not make them happy?
But Ashley and I hadn’t seen each other in 2 1/2 years, since she visited me on the Oncology floor at New York Hospital. So you can imagine that we had a lot to catch up on in the hour we had together on Saturday afternoon before she had to dash off to bring her daughter to her play rehearsal and I had to pick up my boys at my parents’ house.
Now, as mothers, we possess the ability to tune out lots of things, like a ball being kicked repeatedly against the chimney outside and burp contests. Not only that, but Ashley had just visited two schools teeming with children to promote her lovely new children’s book, “This Tree Counts.” Plus, I had once done a book-signing at Borders for my own books during which I wound up singing “‘Coming Round the Mountain” with four year-old twins while I was dressed in pajamas.
So you see, we don’t mind kids. In fact, we love kids. We’re not the type to want to kick your kid off an airplane or make them seen and not heard while we sip our lattes and discuss the New York Times’ Style section and shoes. We are a children’s book author and a parenting author and mothers of four kids combined with soccer balls rolling around in our cars.
But your happy (and cute!) little girls were so loud, we couldn’t hear each other. So we put on our stern mommy voices and implored the girls to keep it down:
Ashley: “Girls, I haven’t seen my friend in a long time, and we can’t hear each other over you.”
Me: “Please keep it down, girls.”
Which worked for about 60 seconds before the We’re-so-happy-to-be-skipping-in-Panera started again.
Ashley: “This is a room for grown-ups to talk in, girls.”
Me: “Indoor voices, please.”
The chaos resumed until an older girl came into the Community Room to retrieve Club Happy and exit, leaving us with about five minutes to catch up without having to discipline other people’s children while we took a break from our own.
I like to think that you had no idea what was going on the Community Room. If you did, certainly you would have poked your head in, told the girls to keep it down and apologized to us while we said things like, “Oh we’re mothers, we understand,” and “Thanks so much. Your girls are adorable!” Then we’d have offered a signed copy of my friend’s book and everyone would have had a nice chuckle together.
Then we’d all be so happy, we’d want to run around in circles in the Community Room in Panera.