I did something I’m pretty ashamed of this weekend. I yelled at a kid. I made him cry. I thought I was a better adult than this.
Let me backtrack; on Friday, Jang, Kisan and I went to the Museum of Natural Curiosity, at Thanksgiving Point. Now, while it is very cool and has a lot of interactive exhibits, it is also very busy; and there is no employee supervision or crowd control in the busy exhibits. But Jang and I would be watching Kisan carefully, so I thought he would be safe with us. Boy, was I wrong.
One of the first rooms we visited in the new Museum contained large piles of foam blocks. Older and younger kids played side-by-side, building houses, towers and walls. Then, after a while, someone would usually come over and use their hands to knock the buildings down. It was busy, but the kids around us generally seemed well behaved. Kisan was happily playing beside me with foam blocks. Jang was standing a couple of feet away from me, talking with his friend. Losing interest in the blocks he had been playing with, Kisan walked over to a large foam brick wall, and I followed behind to make sure it was okay for him to knock it down.
Then, without warning, this a large, lanky kid crashes through the wall, propelling my baby backwards in a shower of foam bricks. The room was so loud, I didn’t hear Kisan hit the cement floor, but I saw him land on his back—hard—and heard his scream. If you’ve ever seen your baby get hurt, you’ll understand the feelings of panic I experienced. Jang and I rushed over right away (like I said, I was only a foot away!) and while I tried to pick him up my mind raced with worry for my little boy. Was he okay? Was he bleeding? Jang quickly scooped him up in his arms, leaving me standing there with my fear and growing anger.
Then I saw the boy standing there. He was almost as tall as me (no large feat there) and must have been 10 or 11 years old. Bottom line, he had no place running through a block wall in a room crowded with small children. I turned to him with all the fury of a mama bear whose cub has just been hurt.
“What the heck are you doing?! Watch where you’re going!” I yelled at him, then turned back to examine my baby again. Jang was cradling Kisan to his chest, so I had a moment to look over again at the offending boy again. He was only few feet away, talking to his mom. I saw her ask him what had happened, and I saw his jaw quiver when he answered. You could tell he was pretty upset. As he was talking, he looked over at Kisan and me and quickly looked away, misery evident on his face.
And just like that, my heart broke. I couldn’t be angry with this boy anymore; and I probably shouldn’t have been angry with him in the first place. I walked over to him, with his mom standing by, and I said (looking directly into his face), “I’m sorry. He’s all right. I’m sorry.” And I gave him a hug. He nodded his head and tears welled up in his eyes. I saw tears in his mother’s eyes too. I felt like the most rotten adult—ever. I’d scared this child and made him cry. I’d made his mom cry. In short, I’d been a big bully.
My fear for my baby did not give me the right to terrorize others. With my shame burning a hole in my chest, I quickly took Kisan from Jang and carried him (still screaming) into the other room to comfort him—which is what I should have been doing all along. He ended up being fine, just like he’s been fine after other tumbles.
As I thought about what had happened that night in bed, I realized my behavior was totally unjustifiable. Yes, that boy’s mother should have been watching him better. But just like I had tried my best to watch my little boy, hadn’t that mom probably tried her best as well? Sometimes, accidents just happen when kids play together.
What’s worse, I never would have acted that way if one of my friend’s kids had run into Kisan. It just wouldn’t be appropriate to yell at a friend’s child. But why was it okay, in my mind, to yell at a complete stranger? Oh, I’d sniped at strangers before—on the road; when someone took my parking spot; when a receptionist had mis-calendared my appointment. There’d always been some excuse why it was their fault; and since they’d been adults, my behavior hadn’t seemed so bad at the time. But now I’d yelled at a kid—someone who, even though he was a stranger to me, deserved to be treated gently by the adults in his life, not to be belittled and frightened. The truth is, in that moment I yelled at him, he wasn’t a little boy to me; I wasn’t thinking about him as a person; I didn’t care about his feelings. He was someone who had hurt Kisan. That was all that went through my mind.
Just in case you think I have rage issues, I did moderate my behavior at the time. Somehow, lacking the presence of mind to act my best, I didn’t act my worst. I hadn’t tried to terrify the boy—I’d yelled, but not roared. I hadn’t gotten in his face. And I’d never dream of trying to physically bully a child. But I hadn’t moderated my behavior enough.
The truth is, I should have been my best self. Kisan had gotten hurt while playing before and recovered. The logical part of my brain should have told me he’d be fine again this time. But it just didn’t, not in the moment. Even with my emotions taking over, I should have had the presence of mind to calm myself. If logic had failed, my morality should have restrained me. After all, am I not a Christian? An adult? A mother? How would I have felt if someone had yelled at Kisan the way I yelled at this little boy?
If nothing else, this experience has been a wake-up call for me. You see, none of the incidents I described earlier were okay behavior for me. I should never yell at other drivers, make snippy remarks to a receptionist, or speak so harshly to another child. It’s just not right to behave badly and privately repent later. When bad behavior becomes a habit, it becomes your character. And I just don’t want my character to be this way—angry, mean, or hurtful to others. So starting this week, I have a new goal: to keep my cool, at all costs. I hope I can follow through, because I want my character and behavior to reflect all the best parts of me, not the worst.