A Tale of Two Strangers (Judging My Children)

It was the best of impressions; it was the worst of impressions.  Within a span of only a few hours, my children had made their marks on two total strangers, each of whom judged them correctly, and in completely opposite directions.  Although the one guy didn’t have to be such a jerk about it.

We had just finished swimming at the gym and, for once, Edward had completely behaved himself.  I did not have to ask him more than one time to get out of the pool.  There were no tantrums or surprise attacks on his sister.  It was incredible.  And he asked me if he could have a snack out of the vending machine, which at the gym means things like organic popcorn,or fruit leather, and I said yes.  After all, he had been an exemplary human being.  Well, this excited him to no end, and so he entered the locker room with a few shrieks of joy, and a song in his heart.  In fact, the song in his heart was so loud that it was audible from several miles away I believe.  I reminded him that, in order to fully earn the snack, he had to also dry himself off and get changed with no fussing, so he got right to it, squeaking with happiness at the top of his lungs.

“SHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” hissed the shriveled old half-naked man who had suddenly appeared from an adjacent row of lockers.  “I can’t take all that shrieking!  My head!  My GOD!  Just be quiet!  SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”  He hissed at us loudly one last time, and then went back to his own row to plot against George Bailey and the Building and Loan.  Edward’s face fell completely, as all of the joy evaporated from his body, and he sat down quietly on the bench.

“OKAY!” I shouted.  “Let’s finish getting dressed and get that SNACK!  WHOO-HOOOO!”  Edward smiled again as I continued to be a loud as possible.  “SNACKS, SNACKS!  WE LOVE SNACKS!” I sang out in my opera voice.  I slammed a few locker doors shut for good measure, and got us out of there, singing all the while.  Then we got snacks, and all was right with the world again.

Now, let me just state, for the record, that my children are loud.  In fact, they are way too loud.  I am aware of this.  And if that guy had come over and said, “Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you, but would you mind keeping it down a bit?  This is an echoey locker room, and I’m starting to get a headache,” then I would have responded by asking my son to use his inside shrieks, and I would have explained that we were in public and that we needed to be respectful of other people.  Instead, I got snapped at by a guy whose voice sounded like he was hiding Voldemort under his turban, and who had the attitude to match.

So we left the gym, ready to go home and get things ready for dinner after my wife got home from work.  Except she did not get home from work.  Instead I got a text message that informed me of an impromptu meeting she suddenly had, and instructed me to take the children to Burger King.  So I did.  And at Burger King there is a big play structure with tubes and tunnels and a big slide and all of that, so they ate their chicken nuggets and ran off to play with the other little boy who was already in there.  He looked like he was around two, and Edward shouted to me from the top of the structure that he had a new friend and his name was Rowan, although his mother seemed to disagree with that last bit.

About halfway through our time there, as I sat playing on my phone, the boy’s mother came over to my table and said, “Excuse me, I just have to tell you, you have two really great kids.  I have never seen such kindness before.  My son was scared to go up in the structure, and your children helped him up every step of the way, without even being asked.  I just can’t believe how helpful and generous they are being with him, on the slide, and everywhere.  Thank you so much.”

Ha!  Take that, Mr. Sourpuss Nastypants!  My kids are awesome!  And it’s true.  They are awesome.  And kind, and helpful, and generous.  Both of their teachers at school have told us how they consistently reach out to the kids with special needs, or who don’t have someone to play with, or who are just feeling sad.  They are friends to everyone, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

And they are way too loud also.  We need to work on that.  The woman asked me, as we were leaving, if my children always got along that well, and I laughed.  “No,” I replied, “they’re just having a good day today.”  And that was true.  Some days they fight like cats and dogs, and other days they play happily together.  Some things they are good at, and some things not so much.  I was glad that the mother in Burger King saw the good in my kids, and I was sad that the man at the gym heard only the bad.  Neither of them saw a complete picture of my kids, just like I don’t have the full story of any of the kids I see in public every day.  All I have to go on is the information from those brief moments, where I decide quickly in my head “that kid is bad” or “that kid is good.”  And yesterday I was reminded of how unfair those snap judgements can be.  I’ll try to work on that myself.

I thanked the woman for her kind words as we left, and the kids both wanted to say goodbye to Rowan.  “What’s his name again?” I asked her, just for clarification.

“Ro_an” she said, imperceptibly.

“Roman, like the empire,” I inquired, “Or Ronin, like the samurai?”

“RO__N” she said again.

“Okay, well, goodbye Roman!” I called out.

“Bye Ronin!” Ruby said.

“GOODBYE ROWAN!” shouted Edward as loudly as possible, and then he ran outside shrieking, slamming the door loudly behind him.

Posted in Bad Parenting, Burger King, Edward, Parenting, Ruby, Socialization, Society.

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