I would like to think that I am generally a peaceful person, with calm and rational reactions (insert manic laughter of anyone who actually knows me). Well, that’s how I try to be anyway. Except when it comes to protecting my sons.
A whole bunch of kids were playing on the street yesterday afternoon, while I lounged on a bean bag with my laptop on our driveway. The boys were riding scooters, bikes and skateboards on the road, jumping gutters and spinning out. It was beautiful warm weather; kids laughing and having good old fashioned sweaty fun.
And then suddenly- and entirely out of the blue- I heard one of the neighbours shout profanities at one of the boys for daring to cross his driveway. The man in question is already known to the street for his foul temper. I guess most neighbourhoods have one such tortured soul. Someone who hates kids, hates anyone having fun and probably hates Christmas and rainbows too.
For the most part, we all manage to stay out of his way. But on this particular afternoon, a child had committed a ‘crime’ and the old man decided to take the foulest parts of his vocabulary to express his disdain. The children scattered, surprised and afraid. What happened next is not something I am entirely proud of, but there was a lesson in respect I needed my sons to witness. And sometimes you have to get a little dirty in order to clean up.
I leap up and was on his driveway in an olympic leap. Bullies usually don’t expect anyone to stand up to them, and by the look on his face, I don’t think he quite expected me to confront him either. The children gathered wide-eyed behind me while I explained to the man that this street would not tolerate abusive language to our children.
His answer: you need to teach your children some respect.
After I pointed out that he may want to consider improvements to his own example, I reminded him that there were possibly ten other ways he may have wanted to ask the kids not to cross his driveway, including speaking to me directly.
In the end, I turned to my children in front of him and gave them two instructions:
- Never, ever go on this man’s driveway again. Ever.
- If the man ever talks to them aggressively again, they are to report immediately to me. Because respect is not a lesson limited by age.
I heard Aretha Franklin play loudly in my head as I marched back to my bean bag perch on the driveway. I sat vigil for the rest of the afternoon, watching my kids play like a lioness over her cubs. Could there have been other ways to handle myself? Probably. Do I regret showing my children that I’ll stand up for them when they need me? No.
I very rarely come to their rescue. They fall, I tell them to get up. They complain, I tell them to get over it. But every now and again, it doesn’t hurt to show our kids that they have us in their corner. More importantly, I wanted to remind my sons that:
We teach people how to treat us, by what we tolerate.
And whilst the man has the right to request the kids stay clear of his driveway, he does not have the right to insult them.
Later in the afternoon, my second son came and sat down next to me to chat about the incident. I reminded him of the above and also explained to him that “there are times to turn the other cheek and there are times to protect your cheeks”.
“Yeah”, he nodded, “Otherwise you’ll run out of cheeks”.