We’re going to Chicago next week and I needed a pair of good sandals I can walk around in without developing blisters on my feet. After our regularly-scheduled free lunch at Chick-Fil-A today, I did a quick search for the perfect pair. J. C. Penney always seems to be the best store for me, price-wise, so that’s where we naturally gravitated toward after lunch.
Maddie and Chloe were doing what Craig calls their “Frick and Frack” routine while I was (quickly) browsing the sandal section. I wasn’t thinking too much about it as they weren’t being that rowdy, but they were a bit on the hyper side; in short, they were acting like children.
So, I was surprised to hear the lady who was looking at the clearance rack start talking to herself. She spoke loudly enough for everyone around her to hear, but as I didn’t realize she was directing her comments toward us, I didn’t pay attention right away. Here’s what I heard her say, “It’s my only day to shop for shoes! Why do I have to be distracted by these loud kids?”
When I write it out like that, it doesn’t sound like it did in the store. But trust me, it was mean-sounding in the store. I clued in about then and walked over to her. I looked around and sure enough, the only children around her were mine. “Excuse me,” I said, “but are you speaking to my children?”
She did not make eye contact with me, but kept looking at the shoes. “I would be if they would listen,” she said.
That was the wrong answer. I became the Mother Whose Children Never Do Wrong and said very firmly, “If you have a problem with my children, you need to talk to me, okay?”
She ignored me. I then turned to the girls (who were completely wide-eyed at both the situation and the fact that I was addressing it with a complete stranger) and felt the need to make my own verbal point. “Let’s move out of this lady’s way, girls, so we don’t distract her from buying her shoes.” Then I said, “Let’s just move to the other end of the section so we can stay completely out of her way.”
“Mom, what happened?” Maddie asked. My gracious response? “We got in the way of a very mean lady who does not like children.”
I don’t know if that lady heard me or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. I was mad and I wanted her to feel a sting. I made a point out of saying out loud to the girls that we were allowed to shop in the store, too, and that just because one lady doesn’t like children, it doesn’t mean we have to leave the store until she’s done shopping.
I found my shoes, made my purchase, and huffed out of the store. Once in the van, Katie and EMillie started playing with their dolls. Then Millie’s doll did something mean to Katie’s doll and Katie said, “When someone does something mean to you, you don’t get to do mean things back to them. You need to treat them nicely.”
I looked at everyone in the rear view mirror. “Girls, you know how angry mommy was in the store?” Yes. “Well, mommy treated that lady the way she treated us. The way she treated us wasn’t right, but mommy still should have shown grace to her. Mommy missed a big chance to show the love of Jesus to that lady.”
We brainstormed possibilities of why that woman could have been so frustrated and bitter. We talked about how mommy’s response reinforced the thinking that that woman already had instead of helped to change it.
The bottom line was that we don’t repay mean responses for mean behavior. Katie knew the lesson better than I did. One day, I hope to learn it as well.