I am not a perfect parent. Far from it, actually. There are things I teach my children and then do the exact opposite, and there times when I completely mishandle a situation, and I have said the wrong thing at the wrong time at the wrong place more than once. But despite my shortcomings, my children seem to love me unconditionally, and I them. I am not perfect. They are not perfect. There is actually some comfort in knowing this.
Given that, I will say that our children are (relatively) well behaved. We frequently talk about right and wrong, choices and consequences. We’ve also had to have a talk or two about not being so nice that people take advantage of you. Standing up for yourself is sometimes imperative, but often it’s hard to decide when to speak up and when to let it go. When we went to the Braves game last week, I had to live out one of my own lessons.
The thing the children wanted the most from the game was the little souvenir baseball hat that came with the Dippin’ Dots. We went and got the goodies and I came back muttering about the high price for glorified ice cream, and the lady in front of us commented about the high price of everything in the park. (Side note: It was over 100° and I ate every single bite, so maybe it was worth it after all.) As each child finished their snack, I should have put them all together in the small cooler we’d brought. In retrospect, there were a lot of things I should have done. BUT I didn’t and the little hats all ended up on the floor beneath our feet. At one point, I noticed that Lydia’s had fallen down against the edge of the wall beside the seat in front of her. But at that time, there were two guys sitting in those seats and we’d pestered them enough and I would have had to ask them to help me reach it. So I decided to just wait until the end and crawl down there and get it myself once they’d left. (Mistake #2, if you’re counting.)
After a promising rally, it became clear that the Braves were not going to make a comeback and the guys decided to leave. I could still see the little hat, but couldn’t reach it without some effort. I should have crawled over the seat right then and picked it up, but I had Asa in my lap and he was finally being still so I didn’t make a move to get it then either(#3).
A few minutes later, the lady who was sitting in front of me/beside the guys who’d left (aka the same lady that commented on the high prices and knew we’d gotten the little hats) leaned over and picked up the hat. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and it drew my complete attention in time to see her put it in her purse. A sticky, dirty little kid souvenir. A)Don’t take things that aren’t yours. B)That’s just gross. Anyway, I should have said something then, but I didn’t. (#4) The kids and I had recently read the verse about being careful with your words and I’d been trying to do better about thinking before I speak and so I let it be.
But the longer I sat there, the more it bothered me. Who would take a kid souvenir? It wasn’t as if she didn’t know it was ours. Our kids were good, but they are still kids and there was noise and in all of their shuffling of seats, we brushed into her a few times. Maybe we annoyed her and that was her way of ‘getting back’ at us. Or maybe she genuinely didn’t know it was ours. Or maybe she… I came up with a million possibilities and tried to talk myself out of being mad, but it didn’t work. Then I started thinking of ways to possibly give her a chance to ‘find’ it. I asked Lydia (somewhat loudly) to look for the hat. I even helped her crawl down to the seat in front of us and look for it. (The children never knew – still don’t – that the lady had taken it. They just knew that it was missing.) When that produced no response, I decided to ask the middle school girls with her. They’d been laughing and playing with Asa on and off throughout the whole game. We asked them if they could look down under their seats and see if they saw a little souvenir hat. I thought that by doing that, the woman would have a chance to ‘find’ it and give it back. The girls searched thoroughly, including under the lady’s seat and the woman just stared straight forward, completely frozen.
I contemplated saying something then. I really did. But the conversation I’d had with the children earlier in the week about sometimes it’s just not worth the battle, sometimes you just have to let things go kept rushing to my mind. I didn’t say anything to her. Part of me still wishes I had, but most of me knows I was right not to. But I just couldn’t let it go and I did what any mature adult would do (ha!) and vented on Facebook.
Ok, so probably not the most mature response, but I felt better. And I was most amused by some of the responses, which included sending the woman a postcard with poor Lydia looking sad and her brother’s happy with their hats, sending a postcard in her hand writing that says “I forgive you”, sending her a card from another state that says “I know what you stole this summer”, and (my personal favorite) buying the hats on Amazon and sending her one a week for the rest of the summer.
I’d never actually do those things, but as my friend Dawn said, “I know we can’t just start sending her a Braves Helmet a day. But it’s cathartic to consider.”
Yes. Yes, it is.
And I can’t tell this story without sharing the ending. Carter had been to a game recently and had a little hat at home. With some prodding, he offered to let Lydia have his so that they’d all have one. We all went home happy and smiling. And that kind of sharing and caring, dear Ms. Grinch, is what you seem to be missing. May your heart grow three sizes one day soon.