It was an accident. Really. She wasn’t throwing a fit, she wasn’t trying to be funny. She was genuinely trying to enjoy her meal. Until it went flying across the restaurant.
What was supposed to be an early-bird dinner on vacation with my sister (Auntie), my toddler and me quickly turned into a giggle-fest and debate about what is the right thing to do when your toddler flings spaghetti onto the next table.
The scene: My little girl in a high chair seated at the end, a big red plate of noodles, a grownup-sized fork and a table of seemingly-nice people behind us (2 grandparent-types with 2 elementary-aged kids). My toddler’s gotten pretty good at the whole eating-with-utensils thing, but her dexterity still wavers from time to time. Talking to my sister across from me, I noticed from the corner of my eye that my little one was deeply concentrating on her food… and holding her fork. Stabbing and scooping, she was eating…. quietly.
Then, a catastrophic move: Holding her forkful of noodles close to the table, she gently shook it to try and fling some loose onto her plate. Apparently there was too much spaghetti on the fork for her to put in her mouth. (You can blame me for this: I’m always telling her to take tiny bites.) In the blink of an eye I see strands of red fly up in front of us, over and behind her head and land on the floor (and, okay, a bit on the table) of those seemingly-nice people I mentioned earlier. It’s happened. I am that person. With a toddler. In a restaurant. I gasp and cringe of embarrassment over my shoulder, and give a gushing, one-liner apology over the hum of the restaurant. “I’m so sorry… it was an accident… I promise.” They just kind of blankly looked at me. No response. Ok good. No harm, no foul. We are in the clear.
Auntie then whispered to me, “That man’s wiping his shirt.” Red sauce. My mouth dropped open, we paused in silence, and then immediately started giggling. Totally immature. Totally inappropriate. Totally uncontrollable. But I really did feel bad. “What do I do?” I panicked. “You should pay for their dinner” Auntie replied. “But what if his dinner is really expensive?” I thought of me trying to explain an imagined $300 credit card charge to my husband. More giggling. My sister then spied on them. “I think he wiped it off with water” she reported. We finished our dinner and swiftly left.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it: If it were me who got splattered, I would’ve just chalked it up to risks you take when going out to dinner. But I am still mortified, apologetic and confused about what I should have done in that moment.
WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?