We walked into the restaurant. Myself, holding Collins, Adrian and Ellis following close behind. Ellis grabbed a color page and Adrian was distracted by the wall of pictures of waiters and waitresses in tie dye shirts, holding pizzas and laughing. They all looked really happy, and it's probably because of the ranch dressing. The ranch dressing there is so good, you'd want to pour it into your tea for creamer and pour it into your veins as an anti-depressant.
Anytime I have the three kids by myself in public, there is a lack of fun and happiness on my face. The struggle that is witnessed is me jamming said happiness to my cheeks and eyes, while pulling it from an unsubstantial reservoir within my working-mother-of-three soul.
I got all three kids seated and then Adrian's crutches fell down and knocked over a chair at the table next to us. I pulled some patience and smiles from the depleting reservoir and apologized and found somewhere else to put his crutches, behind the bar area. When I walked back to the table, Collins was standing in her high chair trying to reach over a wall to grab food from another adjacent table.
About that time, a friendly college age boy walked over and greeted us and introduced himself as our server. I was happy to have an adult around, so maybe I smiled at him more than I meant to. This invited him to place his hand on the back part of my shoulder, his fingers drifting toward my upper back and neck while he took our drink order.
He walked away and I tried to talk to Adrian about a school project, but was interrupted by Ellis.
"Why did he just touch you?"
"What do you mean?"
"He put his hand on you, did you want him to?"
"Uhhh no not really, I don't know- I think he was just trying to be nice. It's not a big deal, Ellis."
He brought our mushrooms and Adrian was out of water- he grabbed Adrian's cup and placed his hand over Adrian's in doing so.
"Did you need more water, Buddy?"
Ellis was incredulous. She gave the server some serious side eye.
"Did you want him to touch you, Bubba?"
"Ellis, you're being mean, stop. Be nice. He's nice."
I glared at Ellis to mind her manners and looked around, embarrassed, making sure no one heard. I decided to loudly change the subject and ask Ellis about gymnastics.
"Did you have fun at gymnastics tonight? Your handstand is really looking better, have you been practicing....?
ELLIS! WHAT are you looking at? I'm trying to talk to you!"
She turned around, completely unaware of everything I had just said.
"Mama, he's touching everyone. EVERYONE. WHY? He doesn't need to touch people. I don't like him at all. He's weird. Why is he touching all the people eating pizza?"
I looked up and see him talking to a man at one of his other tables, his hand casually on the man's upper arm.
"Ellis, do not mention it again- I'm serious. Just eat your pizza and chill out. He thinks it makes him seem nicer so he gets a bigger tip, that's it. Stop obsessing over it, please! I don't want him to hear you, it would make him sad."
Ellis mumbled her agreement and kept eating her pizza in a stiff and pissy manner.
About that time, server boy came up behind her and put his hand on her back, whispering he'd get her more water.
"STOP TOUCHING ME AND STOP TOUCHING EVERYONE!"
The server looked at me, he was completely mortified and confused.
"Ellis...." I scolded her through my teeth and gave her the most warning mom face I have ever mustered.
She slumped down in her seat and put her face in her hands. Somehow she still looked defiant. I apologized to the server and told him I would talk to her.
All of a sudden- I had this huge feministic epiphany.
ELLIS ISN'T WRONG AND NAUGHTY. I AM.
I hate hurting people's feelings.
It sounds like it would be a good personality trait to have and sometimes it is. In fact, whenever I get my feelings hurt the first thought to pop into my head is, "Why can't (sniffle) they be (sniffle) more like me?!".
We are all going to have our struggles in life. I will always manage to put myself in situations that are uncomfortable for me, rather than hurt someone's feelings. It's been 32 years of unwanted back rubs, persuaded hugs, eighth grade boys popping my bra straps...
My six year old daughter has made it clear that she is not going to have that struggle.
I pulled Ellis's face out of her hands and leaned over the table.
"Look at me. I am so sorry. I was completely wrong. If anyone is every touching you in a way you don't feel comfortable, you should do EXACTLY what you just did. It doesn't matter if it hurts people's feelings or makes people uncomfortable. You NEVER have to be touched if you don't want to be."
She was extremely confused and probably creeped out that I had tears in my eyes- but was just happy to not be in trouble anymore so she could continue drinking her ranch dressing.
I'm proud of you and I love you, Ellis- I hope while I am trying to pass on kindness and understanding to you, you can also pass me some of that strength that I'm so envious of.