Monday, November 18, 2013

Set me and my children FREE, in Costa Rica

My children (2 and 4 years old) are very high energy and full of curiosity to say the least. They are like a Border collie; if you don’t exercise them to exhaustion they will eat the furniture. So taking them out to a restaurant is almost always a disaster, but my wife and I continue to engage in this stupidity thinking somehow these animals will behave this time. My 4 year old eats 2 bites and then leaves the table. He moves like lightening 3 to 4 tables over (yeah not the table next to us because he knows there, he is too easily retrieved) to engage in an unwanted conversation with the folks trying to enjoy their dinner. Then he travels behind the bar and into the kitchen. My wife and I take turns corralling him back to the table with the standard arm grab and gritting teeth, under the breath, death threats. My two year old does fine until she notices her brother is not at the table. She is strapped tightly into the highchair which creates a temper tantrum that only a 2 year old can get away with. The screams are deafening to the entire restaurant and food and drink are everywhere. I pick my daughter up and take here outside to give the restaurant a break, my wife goes to find my son and guess what? No one is at our table eating dinner. The dirty looks, the talking under their breath about what an awful family we are, the talking directly to us about what an awful family we are was a certainty. We all return to the table and all is well for about 30 seconds. The 4 year old reaches for something and knocks his milk over spilling on his mother, the 2 year old throws her fork across the restaurant and the departure from the restaurant is announced by my wife saying “That is it! We are leaving!” This is supposed to scare the children into behaving the next time. My wife and I look at each other across the table, eyebrows turned down, quickly eat a couple of bites and pay the bill with a large tip to ease the pain of cleaning the piles of food ground into the floor. We scurry out the door looking straight ahead to avoid any more dirty looks.

We were so embarrassed that we moved to Costa Rica. Not really, we moved to Costa Rica for a lot of other reasons but at least we don’t have to go back to those same restaurants. So we are living in Costa Rica and we decide to go out to dinner. The same things start to happen, and for some reason, my wife understands it sooner than I do. I continue to chase and fight the kids, but after a few restaurant visits, I started to notice that my kid’s behavior is not bothering anybody but me. When my son visits another table, the strangers engage him with a warm smile and often ask him to join them. When he travels behind the bar and into the kitchen he is met with welcoming smiles, and his curiosity to what is going on back there is allowed to be fulfilled. The cooks and bartenders only bring him out to show us he is in safe hands. So we unlock my daughter from the highchair and set her free too. Even when she starts to have a hunger fit, the waitress and the people at the table next to us stop and help to soothe her, giving us a break. What culture? I’m never leaving this place. I have been told that the mortality rate for children in Costa Rica’s early history, like many Central American countries, was very high. So the culture here adores children and because, in their early history, children only had a short time on this earth, they were allowed to do whatever they want and enjoy being a child. This country has truly set me, and most importantly, my children free. Pura Vida!


  1. I just discovered your posts today, Matt. Very well written and love your points of view. My Matt and Christine and their two little girls experience exactly the same thing you mention here. Love you all and so happy that you are so happy!


  2. Thanks for sharing PJ - Warm wishes!


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