Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Making Me Proud

My wife and our thirteen year-old daughter went on a girls' date this past summer. Just the two of them. Shopping, shopping, and more shopping. And. More. Shopping.

The rest of us gladly gave them this time, happy to avoid our busy mall area.

Karen and Emma had a wonderful day of togetherness. They had gone to stores they normally wouldn't shop at, trying on different-styled clothes and shoes, and just enjoying their "girly" afternoon immensely. Fashion shows left and right, I'm sure. And at Emma's age, nothing is better than a private day with Mom, right?

At one point in their day, unfortunately, they had experienced a little "encounter."

Last year, we purchased a VW Beetle Convertible to run around town in during the brief but beautiful summers we have here along our great lake. It's not a big car and certainly doesn't need a lot of room to be parked comfortably in a spot. What it lacks for in size, though, "Bumble" makes up for in fun. Can you imagine the added pleasure that driving this car during a girls' afternoon out brought to my family?

So, during their excursion, my wife and daughter decided to stop at Marshall's. My wife, as she tells the story, drove down the main parking aisle near the store and found two spots alongside each other. She put on her signal and turned into the one empty spot. There were no cars behind her while she was turning in, and no cars approaching from the opposite direction, either.

She and my daughter gathered their things, purses and what not, and, as they were each exiting the car, their doors open, my wife said another car zipped out of nowhere, trying to pull into the adjacent empty spot beside her driver's side.

As she was stepping out, my wife said this car kept impatiently inching forward, into the vacant spot, barely leaving room for her. "He even parked outside of his lines, Jim," she said, adding worth to her story. Sadly, as the car got closer and closer, my wife noticed an offensive man, 50-ish maybe, yelling obscenities and flailing his arms at her. She said it was obvious that he was in a rush and was frustrated with giving her the ten seconds time she needed to get out of our vehicle. A car that you can fit three in one spot, no less.

My wife was incredulous at this gentleman's behavior. Behavior that our daughter was witnessing.

"What's wrong with that guy, Mom?" Emma asked.

"I don't know, honey. Stay here for a minute, though, would you?"

My wife was going to have a talk with this gentleman.

She walked up to this gentleman's car door and waited for him to get out. She mimicked for me the look of surprise on his face when he glanced up through the window to find her standing there. I wish I had been there.

He opened his door and got out, cleaning up his behavior and no longer swearing.

"Is there a problem, sir?"

Clearly, she had embarrassed him. He didn't respond and struggled to keep eye contact with her. She just kept staring.

Isn't it funny how a lack of a windshield can turn a lion into a mouse?

"Did I do something wrong to offend you," my wife continued, "because if I did, tell me so I can apologize to you for it."

She paused, giving him a chance to explain himself. He didn't grasp the chance. I can only imagine what being called-out felt like.

My wife continued. "And if I didn't do anything wrong and you were just yelling and waving your arms at me because you were impatient, then I don't appreciate your behavior at all. In fact, you should be ashamed of yourself."

She pointed to my daughter. "That's my thirteen year-old daughter over there. We're trying to raise her to be a good citizen and person. Today, she witnessed your rude behavior and asked me why you were acting this way. What should I tell her?"

The man was frozen to his spot, speechless. Again, he offered no excuse for his behavior.

"I guess I'll just tell her that you're having a bad day and leave it at that. I'm sure you wouldn't want us to think you act like this every day."

My wife, realizing her point was made, turned back to our daughter. "Come on, honey," she said, walking back and holding out her hand to Emma, "let's go do some shopping."

Together, hand-in-hand, they walked into the store.

Hurray! My wife, although steady in her beliefs and convictions, rarely sees the need to be confrontational. To her, that is wasted energy. She has that rare ability to see the best in everyone, often dismissing their ugly side to "They must be having a bad day." Clearly, though, this man's swearing and carrying-on must have affected her to some unfamiliar level.

If you ask me, mama bear was just protecting her cub.

From every perspective, my daughter was fortunate to have learned such a lesson from her mother. Importantly, Emma learned that one can stand up for themselves and do it in a respectable and dignified manner. Sadly, though, not every person is going to have the courteous manners and exemplary behavior that we try to instill in our kids, and we just need to accept the good with the bad. Actually, embrace the good. And, before moving on, learn something from the bad. In the right doses, actually, the lessons learned from these negative encounters may hold more benefit for our children than we realize.

The best thing about this encounter, though, from my view? My daughter was able to see that she has one heck of a cool Mom.

Something she probably already knew.

As always, big thanks for reading. Next post will be Friday, April 16. See you then...


Pissed Off Patient said...

Never mess with a mama bear. I can attest to that! Good for your wife!

I am not much of a shopper, but I look forward to similar outings with my daughter when she is older.


Katie said...

"...During the brief but beautiful summers we have here along our great lake."
This made me yearn for my brief yet beautiful summers along my great lake. :-)

Good for her! I hate confrontation so I can't say that's something I would do but I think it's an important lesson for Emma to learn. I'm practically taking notes on what Karen said to replicate them in some less-than-pleasant encounter later in life.

Your stories always make me smile. I feel like we hear about so much bad in this world that people rarely stop to point out the good, the compassion, the random acts of kindness. We need more of those rare people like you. Thanks!
<>< Katie

Heather said...

I adore, adore, adore your wife!

I have this feeling that you guys are blessed beyond measure... ;)

ADORE this! Just adore it! were the fresh pierogi for your birthday? I meant to ask. Now all I can do is crave them.

AtYourCervix said...

Your daughter sure does have one heck of a fantastic mom! What a great way to diffuse the situation too. I'll have to try that sometime.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like your wife is smart, resourceful and courageous, Jim. Your daughter is blessed with two great role models in you and her Mom. She learned something important that day.

I hope that ugly-rude, impatient man also learned to slow down a bit and not react to each small delay in his life with such over-the-top rage and bitterness. Life's too short.
Great story!

WrightStuff said...

Yay to your wife! I bet he caught himself next time he was about to lose his temper like that. A few more of us should act like your wife.
Your post made me smile for an altogether other reason too. Given the nature of your usual writing, I was expecting the ending to be one more of a medical nature. Either your wife bopped the guy on the head and you were required to stitch him up (unlikely - I am sure your wife would do no such thing) - or (more likely) the fellow got himself so wound up that he caused himself some damage through lack of concentration. Slamming his fingers into the door was one example that came to mind! Still I'm glad that no one in the post ended up in the emergency room! There is hope for us all after all.

coulrophobic agnostic said...

Your wife rocks. (My mom has a vintage VW bug, too. I call it "The Ladybug," as it's a particularly hideous shade of red. She's planning on painting it one of these days, but I'll probably still call it that.)

PS - you got a shout-out on my Jesus blog on April 8th ;)

shadowfax said...

Great for mom, but as the child of a woman who was not shy about being similarly assertive, I don't know that "cool" was the adjective I would have used as a teenager. "Mortified" was the emotion we felt when Mom would tell someone off, even when it was deserved!

Still, good for your wife. She does sound like a badass.

Mark p.s.2 said...

Confrontation is dangerous! I wouldn't do it unless necessary.
Road rage

Exiting the car to attempt to start a confrontation, including striking someone else's vehicle with an object."

Rositta said...

Part of me cheers your wife on for how she handled this and the other part of me cringed. Here in the big bad city it would be unwise. I've been in similar situations on occasion throughout the years and I tend to just stay in my car phone in hand and wait for the offending person to go away. Just a few weeks ago a man was stabbed by a driver who had inadvertently been cut off. He actually followed this poor guy about 10 km off the highway and then approached him and stabbed him. Such is the life in the big city. Bye the way, I've owned four Beetles in my lifetime but never a ragtop sadly..ciao

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i love that she was able to get this point made to him but have one fear here. clearly the man was out of control for a bit and with all the road rage going on i no longer will confront them but i sure used to! but your wife sure sounds like a keeper jim!

smiles, bee

Gia's Spot said...

I still love outings with my daughters even if they are 30!
I was and still am, that woman in line at the deli who speaks up when someone cuts in front of someone else, or the driver who stops and asks if you are alright or berates that mean man for his meanness. I am blessed with an attitude that I treat all others as if it were me. But on the law side, I don't reccommend confronting a ragefull driver in this day and age as many unruly dangerous people don't hesitate to hurt you! Hurrah for your wife for choosing to chastise his undeserved anger and for showing your daughter that it does pay to get involved!
Happy day to all!

JJ Loch said...

I bet that man had a habit of doing that. How sorry I feel for his victims. YAY! that your wife stood up to him but I would also carry pepper spray!

Great post from a beautiful writer.

Cheers, JJ

Jabulani said...

Well done your wife. I think I like her! And your daughter will survive and, sadly, see more of this behaviour the older she gets.

Last year I was on a school trip with my son's class. We were headed to London on the train. I was with a girlfriend (M) who is a totally Atypical English person. You do not mess with her. At. All. Her son was in a seat which had a table attached to the seat in front (like airline seats). He was faffing about with it the way kids do. She asked him not to do that. The lady in front, however, turned around and ripped into him in a most condescending fashion, perhaps because he was a child? Or maybe she was just ill-mannered. Well, M and I had been talking and mid-sentence, M turned to this woman and very politely, but icily, told her to "refrain from talking to him like he's something unpleasant on your shoe. He's a child and you will treat him with respect even if you don't know how to. A simple "Please don't do that would have sufficed" rather than your tirade. That just shows him what poor manners you have."

Well, I don't know about the woman, but I certainly felt put in my place! It made me smile; as a South African I've often been accused of being blunt but wow, that was a sight to behold. I agree with Pissed Off Patient though - Never mess with a mama bear. Anything happens to my kids and my hackles (which I can ordinarily keep in pretty strict British check) fly their South African wings and start blazing like a good old African sunset. That's the time to um, stand back...

SeaSpray said...

Great post!

Your wife handled that perfectly.

I am the same way ..not confrontational and always say that we never know what is going on in someone's personal life. But, I also think it's important to choose your battles and some stuff isn't worth the effort.

But this guy also could've hurt her if he misjudged! maybe he will think twice the next time. Sounds like your daughter has a wonderful role model in her mom.