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PORTLAND, Maine — A diner owner who sparked outrage earlier in the week when she screamed at a crying toddler said she stands by her actions. Meanwhile, the child's mother is sharing her side of the story. Darla Neugebauer runs Marcy's Diner in downtown Portland, Maine. The trouble began when a couple brought their 20-month-old daughter in for breakfast over the weekend, sat down at the counter and placed their order.
"They ordered three pancakes for a 2-year-old," she told WCSH Portland. "Three pancakes bigger than her head, and then they didn't even feed them to her."
According to Neugebauer, the couple pushed the pancakes out of the child's reach, which prompted loud cries from the little girl. She asked the couple to leave or take the child outside, but they didn't.
Neugebauer told WCSH the child cried for an hour before she finally lost control and yelled at the little girl.
"I slammed my hands on the counter and said, 'This needs to stop.' She looked at me, and she stopped," Neugebauer said.
The child's parents, Tara and John Carson, tell a different story.
I'll never forget the look of fear on my baby's face. It was then that I turned to my daughter and said calmly, 'This is exactly how I'm raising you not to be.'
–Tara Carson, mother
In an article she wrote for the Washington Post Wednesday, Tara Carson said the food took about 40 minutes to arrive at their table, so by the time they began eating, her daughter was getting antsy.
"Out of nowhere, Marcy's Diner owner Darla Neugebauer threw to-go containers at my husband and yelled, 'Either she goes or you go!'" Carson wrote.
Carson said her daughter didn't start legitimately crying until they were almost finished with their meal, and that she only cried for 10 minutes before Neugebauer began pointing and screaming at her, telling her to "You need to shut the (profanity) up."
"I'll never forget the look of fear on my baby's face," Carson wrote. "It was then that I turned to my daughter and said calmly, 'This is exactly how I'm raising you not to be.'"
The ugliness didn't end when the Carsons left the restaurant.
Carson — who was passing through Portland with her family on her way up to New Hampshire — posted about the experience on the Marcy's Diner Facebook page.
"Who in their right mind would behave like this unless you are deranged?" she wrote.
Using her restaurant's account, Neugebauer responded with what Carson called a "nasty, profanity-laden attack" in which she called the child rotten, a beast and an "it." At one point in the response, Neugebauer told Carson she was lucky she didn't get physical with them because "it is not something I cower from."
That's when Facebook basically exploded and the story quickly started spreading like wildfire. While some criticized the Carsons for not taking their child out of the restaurant earlier, most expressed disgust over Neugebauer's actions and vowed to never visit the establishment again.
Neugebauer remains unapologetic, and claims she did the right thing.
"The only thing I am sorry for is that child has to grow up with such terrible parents," she wrote on the Marcy's Diner Facebook page.
The Carsons, on the other hand, say they hope people will take an important lesson from their story.
"Babies cry and sometimes moms make the call between a tantrum in the loud diner or going out in the rain," Carson wrote in the Post. "As parents, we sometimes rely on the kindness and empathy of strangers, who know we're doing the best we can."