My kids were fighting again, this time because my 3-year old daughter had taken the chair that her 5-year old brother wanted. They were yelling and starting to get physical. I hated what I was about to do, dreaded it even, but I knew I needed to do it. In the middle of my transaction, with a line of people behind me waiting to order their meals, I ran from the counter to intervene. Everyone in the restaurant was watching, including the large family seated at the table next to ours. After some firm words from me, my son ran, crying, into the bathroom. After making sure my daughter was once again content, I ran back to the counter, where I signed for my pizza order, apologizing profusely to the barrage of people who had to wait for me.

We were in Leavenworth for my son’s camp, which ran most of the week in the mornings. Since he loved it so much last summer, this camp put on by Mountain Sprouts Preschool, I signed him up again this year and reconciled to make the daily commute from Wenatchee. Most days I had my daughter as well, and, during my son’s camp, we played at the library, shopped in town, found a park, or did a scavenger hunt up Ski Hill. Now, as a treat, we were all at Rudloof’s Pizza for lunch.

I went into the bathroom to talk to my son. I got down to his level and spoke as gently as I could, explaining that his sister had gotten the chair first, but had elected to switch seats when she saw how upset he was. I coaxed him out of the bathroom. And, as anyone with small children can predict, within seconds he was smiling again. We joined his sister at the table.

My husband and I are blessed with two sensitive, smart, busy, headstrong children who are currently in the season of big-time sibling rivalry. Going out in public requires prepping, constant engaging and re-engaging, and boundary-setting. And, even then, everything can go out the window, depending on their moods and energy levels.

Such is life right now. I’m sure all mamas can probably relate.

The large family next to us was now standing and scattering about, getting ready to leave it seemed. The kids and I were talking about how pizza is made, the cartoon playing on the restaurant’s TV, how my son used his imagination at camp today, what we’d do when we got home this afternoon. The entire time I was thinking about how poorly I had handled things earlier, how I had left the line and made everyone wait, how I made a bigger scene than necessary, that it was a mistake to bring them here by myself. As my son was clutching my arm, the older gentleman that had been at the table next to ours came up to me. He spoke something to me, something unexpected, and I put my hand to my chest and thanked him.

After he left, my son asked, “What did that man say, Mommy?

For a moment I couldn’t answer.

“Mommy, what did he say?”

As tears came to my eyes, I swallowed hard and said, “He said I’m an excellent mother.”

(Photo credit: Wenatchee World/Mike Bonnicksen. Mountain Sprouts summer campers — including my son, with the Elmo backpack — walk with their teachers in July 2017.)