Grace Chips and Lowering the Bar

It was an hour past nap time, but Salty Dog Cafe was still on my husband’s To Do List, and since I love him, or perhaps because I’m completely bonkers, we decided to brave the storm.

We carried two hangry children into the restaurant, and when the server arrived to take our drink order we were all, “Two diet cokes, an apple juice, a grilled cheese, some fish nuggets—oh and do you have some crackers?”

Parents know the struggle.

We were in the corner of the restaurant, and the baby stopped crying JUST long enough to slam down a few oyster crackers. She was in my lap, and I was maneuvering my hands around her body, inhaling a sandwich.

I started to resent my husband for entertaining this horrible idea. I’d voted for sandwiches at the condo. At least there, I could chew. Then Nugget decided to keep getting out of his chair “to go see the water”, and frankly I was about to pull a Jesus at the Marketplace and send some tables flying. 

Then my husband took the baby, handed Ben the fish basket and said “Hey, son. Why don’t you have a picnic by the window?”

I must’ve looked at him like he was growing horns.

Great idea, hon. Let him eat on the filthy restaurant floor!

But I was desperate and on the brink, so that’s exactly what my son ended up doing. In seconds, both kids were happy and the meal that started off like a trip through a broken car wash started to feel like a memory in the making.

Conversation changed to, “Remember how we were here just 11 years ago on our honeymoon?”

Stress turned to laughter. I began to actually chew. And chaos suddenly became a special memory.

I would like to say we handled this parenting crisis with enguiniety and skill, but y’all it was something a little less impressive:

We dropped the bar.

Yes, I said it: Parents, sometimes we just have to LOWER OUR STANDARDS.

Tiny people aren’t meant to regulate their emotions and hunger and boredom and exhaustion the same way adults do. They just can’t. And unless you want to be a hermit for the next five years, you’re gonna have to accept that imperfection happens.

If a picnic on a dirty floor buys you a moment’s peace, I say go for it. If the baby is drinking tiny sips of Daddy’s sprite, and it keeps her from melting down, well 1/4 cup of soda never killed anybody.

As Nugget chewed on a French fry overlooking the water, a woman at the table behind us turned around in her seat. She was definitely preparing to make some commentary, and my stomach dropped a little.

“His curls are so adorable,” she smiled. “My son right here used to have the same exact hair!”

Her teenage son laughed and waved, and in that moment I relished in the beauty that is this Sisterhood of Moms.

We all have a certain amount of grace chips when we get started, don’t we?

My husband handed me a grace chip when he took the baby. That mom handed me a grace chip when she completely ignored our floor picnic and instead, complimented my kid.

And tonight I want to hand a grace chip to all of you, in hopes that you might pay it forward.

Parenting is hard. Sometimes we have to just drop the bar in order to get over it.

None of us are perfect. We all require grace–and folks, that’s okay.

Because luckily, we all have some grace to give.

Parents, do me a favor. Take a moment to jingle those grace chips sitting in your pocket, and remember this moving forward:

What you pass around will eventually make its way back to you.

Make it kindness. Make it grace.

Share a smile with the family whose kid is eating fish nuggets on the floor of Salty Dogs.

About The Author


Mary Katherine is a southerner, born and raised. Growing up in Alabama, she developed an affinity for lightning bugs, sweet tea, playing guitar, and having strong opinions. She's happily married with a son (Nugget) and two fur babies. Fun facts: MK is a living kidney donor, speaks a little Thai, and has written two novels.


  1. Hi –
    I arrived here (eventually) from a mention on FreeJinger from something you’d written. I’ve been happily reading for the past thirty minutes. Now I have you bookmarked so I can find my way back.
    (I love “grace chips” and plan to try to start passing out a few….)

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