Paying it Forward with Patience

I entered the IHOP Restaurant at approximately 11:37 a.m. on Thursday.

Giggling and wiggling behind me was my tired 2-year-old, my ALWAYS hungry 6-year-old, and my a soon-to-be-10 (but seemingly going-on-20) oldest daughter.

My crazy kids on Thursday – hard to keep still regardless of whether at home or in the car!

The kids were so excited when I told them we were going out to eat for lunch – visions of pancakes and eggs filling their one-track minds.

Understandably, the IHOP staff might not have been as thrilled with our decision (especially after I announced that we were expecting 2 more adults and 4 more young kids to join us). However, the waitress who seated us maintained a friendly smile and didn’t seem to flinch as she grabbed not one, not two, not three …  but 7 kids’ menus.

I was about to suggest that she lead us to an empty area towards the back of the restaurant when she interrupted a rare moment of silence with, “How about this big booth over here?” while proceeding to set the menus down at a table smack-dab in the center of all the dinning action.

As I forced a smiled towards the other patrons enjoying their own quiet, kid-less meals, I wondered for the 1st time if choosing to go out to eat might have been a bad idea.

However, the kind waitress (who looked to be about the age of my own mother) didn’t flinch one bit. She asked us for drink orders and made us feel like welcomed guests, forcing me to attempt to let go of my second guessing.

THE TRUTH IS: I was desperate for a little time out with my own friends.

  • Friends I hadn’t talked to in what seemed like ages.
  • Friends I used to make time for weekly but now see more like every-other month.
  • Friends whom lately haven’t made the cut against our crazy work and family schedules.

This lunch date was important to me (and quite possibly to my sanity).

Yet, as my friends and their children (all between the ages of 2-6)  trickled in one-by-one finding their spots among our booth, my grand plan of:

multitasking lunch
with family fun
with a much needed moment to talk to my own friends,

Didn’t seem as well thought out as it had earlier.

As the chaos
and noise,
and tattles,
and spills,
and missing napkins,
and potty breaks,
and dropped food continued…

I finally reached into my purse to pull out a toy car for my toddler (a last ditch attempt at buying some time). Was it too much to ask to be able to complete Just. One. Single. Sentence?

With that borrowed time I managed maybe one or two additional words, but soon plates emptied, the noise grew, and keeping curious kids in their seats got harder. Glancing around showed most of the tables surrounding us as now empty. Our motley crew had successfully managed to clear nearly an entire restaurant.

The waitress – with all her amazing patience, ongoing smiles, motherly attitude (and significantly decreasing customer base) – deserved a BIG tip. That much I knew for certain.

My fingers fumbled through my purse for my wallet. I placed more bills than I normally would on the last remaining clean spot of our tabletop. And I somehow managed a quick goodbye to my friends, interrupted by a mad dash after my toddler who had made a break for the restaurant’s door.

An abrupt end to my time with friends.

However, our conversations (although broken, interrupted, and mismatched) had fulfilled the intended purpose – a little much needed adult conversation.

Having caught up with my toddler, I led all my children towards the exit, stopping for just a brief moment in front of the patient waitress who had continued to serve our entire crazy clan with a smile and upbeat voice.

“Thank you.” I said.

“Thank you so much for your patience, for your service and for your understanding.” I added, hoping my apology (and the larger than normal tip) might help to make up for her sudden lack of clientele.

“Honey,” she responded back in a matter-of-fact tone, “This is a family place. Thank YOU for coming.”

I left flustered and tired …

Yet (largely due to the waitresses comment) filled with just that much more patience for the giggly, wiggly children about to fill my car. That waitress seemed to understand and, with her small gesture of patience, acknowledged how much I needed that lunch out.

I may not always have the patience I need. Yet someday, when I am filled with the same patience and attitude that our waitress had, I hope I can pay it forward to another mother…

Another mother who desperately needs just a few moments to remember herself amongst the often unrecognizable solitude that can sometimes reside as a busy parent…

Leave a Comment: Sometimes we all need a break, don’t we?


This week I am linking up with my friend Missy at Literal Mom and Carolyn of Hooked and Happy in their new Pay it Forward link-up focusing on stories where we have helped someone with no expectation OR where someone has helped us in the same way.


This entry was posted in Chaos, Family, Motherhood and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Paying it Forward with Patience

  1. Carolyn Y
    Twitter: hookdandhappy

    I think I would’ve hugged that waitress. I too have had those multi-tasking lunches only to come out a little frustrated and wishing I had been able to finish a sentence.
    What a wonderful woman.
    Thanks for linking up! Hope to see you next month.

    • Kate F. says:

      I’m certain this story of a crazy lunch with too many kids is definitely a relate-able story for many parents 🙂 I feel so happy that we had the right person as a server to deal with all our chaos!

      Thanks for hosting the link up Carolyn. I think it is a wonderful idea and am happy to be able to participate!

  2. angela says:

    I’m glad she said that to you, and I KNOW you’ll pay it forward.

  3. I love this story! And I love it when people from one generation ahead of us make us feel a little less flustered in our raising of our kids. Great Pay it Forward linkup, Kate! Thanks so much for joining in!

    • Kate F. says:

      Missy, I absolutely love the topic of the link-up! So glad I could contribute. I hope to also in December if it works out! (December = Crazy, busy, holiday birthday month for us! Ugh.)

  4. Susi says:

    Kate, what a story. I can see myself and my friends and our assorted kids in the same place. When you have a patient and kind waitress it really can make or break your experience!!!

    • Kate F. says:

      Patience is a virtue that not everyone has as much of (myself included!). I imagine it can be a very hard characteristic to maintain for those dealing with customer service day in and day out. That waitress probably doesn’t even realize how much she helped my day…

  5. Missy says:

    It’s so nice to feel understood. To know you weren’t judged. If only we could feel that way all the time!!

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