I took the kids to their school's holiday book fair at Barnes & Noble on Friday night. I pulled the van into a rather tight spot, but that's the way it goes. I opened the door on the passenger side for Tulip and Wolfie to exit. They know to stay by the side of the van until I come around to their side. In other words, stand there and don't run into the street.
I was getting Luna out of the driver's side and I could hear a person kind of hollering. I assumed it was a mom barking orders at her own children as they traverse the busy parking lot. When I rounded the back of the van, I saw a lady standing there between her car and my van and she said, I quote, "Move it already! Get out of my way! I have to get in my car!"
She was yelling at my kids.
So I said, "Hey, why are you yelling at my kids?"
She said, "They're in my way!"
I said, "Well you don't have to yell at them, grumpy lady."
Then she said as we were walking towards the store, "You didn't have to park so close to my car. You didn't leave me any room..."
I thought, "I parked in the exact center of a pretty tight parking space. Maybe you are the one who parked crooked..." but that was too many words so instead I said, "Why don't you cheer up a little."
I entered the store, to the aid of a very nice man who said, "Here, let me get the door for you," feeling rather proud of my choice of words in front of my children. I used "grumpy" and "cheer up" when I could have very well used different sets of words.
But then...gasp...it hit me. Did I just model very bad behavior? Did I just show them how to talk back to someone? I felt like I was defending them and letting them know that the grumpy lady should not have yelled at them like that but couldn't I have just quietly ushered them inside the bookstore and then told them?
So as I began to doubt my perfectness as a mother, I was reminded of a time my friends Jackie and Ann, Melinda and I were visiting. Jackie and Ann had just recently adopted their 2 1/2 year old son. Melinda was the experienced mother of the group with daughters age 6 and 8, and I had not begun having children yet. Jackie and Ann were navigating the world of new motherhood and asked Melinda the rhetorical question, "As a mom, what do you do when some other child is behaving badly toward your own child? Do you step in and discipline some other mother's child? Do you wait for that child's mother to step in?"
These are tough questions no matter in what stage of mothering you are. Melinda, the wise and wonderful, said, "No matter what, I am my child's advocate. That's my job as a mom. So if another person is causing some harm to my child, I step in. Likewise if my child were behaving inappropriately toward another, I would step in."
Sage words, mama.
I decided that grumpy lady needed to be disciplined as she was in the wrong. Also, it probably wouldn't hurt for her to know that she was acting grumpy. I mean, really, "cheer up!" is the reminder we all could use during this festive holiday season.
What I'm hoping my children took from this interaction between their mama and a stranger is:
1. Their mama loves them and will protect them from grumpy people
2. NOT that the lesson is to talk back at someone, unless they deserve some redirection on behalf of protecting a beloved family member
3. Most importantly, to have a sense of humor when faced with people like the random grumpy lady in the parking lot.