Monday, May 16, 2016

Had Enough

We were walking back to the hotel along a sidewalk of a large outdoor mall. I was acclimatizing to being outside my home and work neighbourhoods. You see, even though I live in the centre of Canada's largest city, and even though there are thousands of tourists on the streets, year round, where I live feels very neighbourhoody. People in shops and stores know me, many by name, and we make our way comfortably around. Sure I get the stares and the rude comments but those are, most often, from people who visit the area not those who live there. When I visit somewhere new, there aren't the clerks and the bench regulars who have become familiar with my face and shape and wheels. Everyone reacts in some way or another, even those who struggle to not react are reacting. It can get wearing to have no relief.

So on our way back an incident occurred that I didn't write about. Partly because that night I got very sick. Partly because I don't know what you'll think of what I did and, also, partly because I don't know what I think of what I did.

I admit, I snapped.

I'd had enough.

We were nearing the exit when we both noticed a mother, looking down at her phone, and two children, say 8 and 12 who were openly gawking at me. The older child, the boy, pointed at me and made a remark to his sister using a vulgar term for what I looked like, she answered back, adding flair to his comment. His mother looked at him, hearing the words her children spoke and then looked up and saw me. Now I expected a reaction, her child was just really crudely and needlessly cruel to a total stranger. But I didn't get the reaction I expected, instead, she smiled, the sight of me making his remark suddenly OK and even somewhat amusing.

Joe tensed.

We rolled by them and I suddenly came to a stop. Full stop. Joe whispered, "Let it go." He said that, I think, because he didn't hear the loud 'snap' that I'd heard when my tolerance for meanness broke. I spun my chair, loving the fact that it turns in spot a full circle. I'm facing them. The little girl sees me turn and alerts her mother and brother. She senses what's coming.

I don't speak to the mother.

Why would I?

She doesn't care.

I spoke to the children.

"Do you think," I asked in a voice that was firm but neither loud or angry, "that it's OK to treat people the way you treated me? Do you? Do you think I don't hear your words and feel the impact of them? Don't you care that what you do has an effect on people? Do you think it's OK to be mean to someone because they are different? It's that how you want to be in life? Do you want to grow up and become bullies and bad guys?"

Everyone was frozen in time.

Mother was seething angry but knew better than to escalate this by entering.

I'd finished and waited.

"I'm not leaving until you answer me. Do you think that what you did to me was OK? Is that how you want to be?"

The little girl, said, "No, and I'm sorry."

The boy turned and started to walk away. The mother, flustered, shot me a look of pure hatred, and grabbed her daughter and hustled after her son.

I turned the chair.

We went back to the hotel.

I did what I did and I can't take it back. I don't know if what I did was right or wrong. I don't know if I had any justification in speaking to those children, I'm careful about interacting with other people's children. But I did it. I don't know that I'll ever do it again but I don't know that I won't.

Sometimes, when we've had enough.

We've had enough.


Frank_V said...

What you said to those kids was 100% acceptable, right and just. You did not stoop to their level, and only held a mirror up to their faces through your questions. If they don't like what they see in that mirror, who's fault is that? Not yours!

And you did not snap, you simply chose not to absorb their vileness in silence, and stood your ground firmly.

Liz McLennan said...

You absolutely had the right to question those children about their shameful behaviour. I am incensed at that mother, whose disdain reflects much of what I see in schools and it worries me.

But the little girl? There is still hope for her. She needed you to fan the flames of decency that live in her, still. That she said "I'm sorry" doesn't erase the rudeness of her previous actions, but is does speak of the good in her, that she would defy what her mother is (however unwittingly) teaching. Not lauding her or wanting to praise a simple apology, but I do want to find the bright in this interaction.

It makes my head hurt, how often you are the instrument of change and lessons, Dave. Thank goodness you have this blog as a place to put it all down - literally, figuratively.

Anonymous said...

I have never had an issue with reprimanding a child about something they've done that directly affects me, unless the parent has already stepped in to do so. I'm so sorry that you had to do this. I think you did the right thing, and it sounds like the little girl learned from the experience right away. I hope the little boy will also put things together.

Unknown said...

Yes, you did the right thing. No doubt in my mind. The fact that you were at eye level with the children - when they are accustomed to being looked down upon by adults - may have given your words even more impact. And I would not give up hope that the little boy and the mother may also experience a change. Many people freeze when confronted by their own words and deeds that they know, on some level, are wrong.
Parents have a huge influence on children, but it is still the responsibility of the community to play a role. Otherwise we are abandoning kids to abusive parents and not offering them any other models of how to be in this world. Clairesmum

Unknown said...

I think you did a brave thing, and I believe that all three of them will recall it later and feel a flush of shame. Maybe they will stop using words that hurt people. Sometimes people need to very clearly see the impact of their actions in order to change.

Mary Nau said...

You may doubt it was the right thing to do, but I don't. Glad you did it for a whole host of good reasons.I just wish I had an antidote for the pain and a way to pull out the stingers left behind.

Flemisa said...

Thank you. Thank you for what you did and for writing about it.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and if a Mother is not going to ensure her kids grow up to be kind and considerate than it takes an Elder to step in and do it. Maybe it will do a lot for the children and maybe it will be nearly forgotten but it was done and the lesson made. Right now that is all that counts as we never know what will be or what could have been.

Again, thank you from a parent and Grandmother.

Cindy said...

Children receive many messages these days about not bullying but I don't think they necessarily understand that bullying isn't only against other children - it can be about anyone and in this case, it was about you.

I too believe that what you did was right and most certainly justified. They were picking on you and you had the right to call them out on their behaviour. You didn't attempt to discipline them - you asked them to think about the consequences of their actions and that is a very fair question that is not often asked of children except sometimes in anger "Now, what do you think is going to happen now that you done ___"

wheeliecrone said...

I'm so glad that I am not the only one who "snaps" occasionally.
Thank you for sharing, Dave.

painting with fire said...

I think what you said was entirely appropriate. Shame on their mother for clearly thinking that vile behavior on their part was ok. My only issue with what you posted? That you say you'll never do it again. Don't stop! People - especially kids who might still learn better - need to be called out on behaving badly. I'm sorry you had to deal with it though!

children's advocacy project said...

I think we are built to snap occasionally. I think can all be a part of the interdependent world of Love. If you study the Goddess, you will see that she tears down as often as she creates. And there was the whole Christ in the temple thing, although most of us in the US have a hard time admitting we follow Christ these days...

While I am here. Condolences and prayer for all the people in Florida who lost their lives last night, or joined the disabled today, everyone who lost someone or even thought they might, every one traumatized by the horror. And the parents and family of the shooter who will surely bear the brunt of the aftermath. This young man did not snap. He planned and premeditated, and did everything he could to cause pain, like who those children might become if not for people like you calling them to account for their behavior.

Cecelia Griffiths said...

I'm glad you did it. They needed to learn, and it seems nobody else was teaching.