My friend Alecia and I had lunch today. We ate, had some really nice conversation, and by the time we were done eating, Gage was done sitting. Not being done talking, we decided to walk around and talk, so that Gage could burn some energy. We were at an outdoor mall, so we just meandered down the sidewalk, in the shade of the buildings. In the shade, it was warm but not hot, and the mall was not terribly busy. As we walked and talked, we mostly tuned out the other shoppers. At one point, Gage was walking very slow, and having a hard time not stopping to try and play with his little red car that he was carrying with him. A woman and her teenage son, apparently in more of a hurry than we were, actually squeezed passed, walking on the edge between the sidewalk and the planter beds. I couldn't believe they didn't even bother to simply try saying, "Excuse us." I would have moved Gage to the side so that they could comfortably pass, if they would have just spoken. Instead, they rudely crowded through. I told Alecia, "Just think, she just taught her son that that sort of behavior is totally acceptable!" Now, lest you think we were letting Gage block the whole sidewalk, people were easily passing us on the other side of the sidewalk; I imagine they realized that when you're walking with a toddler you don't make the best time.
So we got passed that interesting scenario. We were back to walking, watching Gage, and talking about Alecia's new niece. I looked up at one point, because I heard loud, bass-y music coming from a passing car. I looked up just in time to see an SUV, window down, with a teenager hanging out the passenger window. He looked straight at Alecia and I and proceeded to make one VERY obscene gesture. I won't tell you what the gesture was, but it was more inappropriate than even flipping us off! With both of our mouths agape, and slack jawed, we watched as the SUV passed. I was so shocked, I couldn't have even told you what either teen in the SUV looked like, what color it was, or even what make it was. I was absolutely shocked that even a teen would make such a gesture at a mother and her child. I am so thankful that at least Gage was 1) too short to see over the plants at the edge of the sidewalk to see the gesture, and 2) is too young to have noticed, even if he'd seen. I don't know what I would've done if he had been a little older and said, "Momma, what does THAT mean?" Or worse yet, tried to imitate it. Here are two 30-ish women, walking down the street with a little kid, and getting a gesture like that! Absolutely disgusting. These were obviously middle to upper-middle class kids, I do know the SUV was newer and not in bad shape. Appalling behavior, to be sure.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that I was the perfect teen, or that I've never done anything wrong in my younger years. In fact, that would be the opposite. I was a fan of hot rodding cars, so I would usually try to shock people by gunning the engine, doing burn-outs, etc. Totally inappropriate behavior, to be sure. But I never, never, never would have done something like that, especially with kids in the area. In fact, I once was gunning the engine and burning out in a parking lot of a movie theatre, when I was around 17. I got pulled over by a police officer in the area. He informed me that he couldn't give me a ticket, as we were on private property, but asked me to think deeply about what would have happened if a kid were crossing the street, and the car got away from me. I took that to heart. I knew I could never live with it if I hit a kid. Did I never speed again? Oh, no, I definitely did not stop speeding. But I did keep it down in parking lots. It took me a few more years to realize I needed to tone it down in neighborhoods, but I did learn that lesson too, fortunately not because anything bad happened. Now-a-days, I more often than not look down at the speedometer, feeling like I'm really going way too fast, just to learn that I'm only doing 3-5 MPH over the speed limit. It is much nicer on the ol' insurance rates.
If you have kids, please remember that your actions bear great meaning to them. You may teach them right with words, but are you teaching them right with your actions? It is far more important to be a good example of respect, kindness, and humbleness, than to simply tell your child how to act while you do the opposite. I am still learning this. I have, in my house right now, a little 18-month-old sponge. He sees and hears everything I say and do. With each passing day, it becomes more and more important to be the example of what we want him to be. We can all do with a reminder now and then that while we love our kids, and want them to love us back, we are first and foremost parents. We aren't made to be best friends or buddies, at least until our kids are a good bit older and well into adulthood. It is our responsibility to shape and mold this next generation into kind, giving, humble, polite, functioning members of society, and unless we provide good examples, that just cannot happen. Good examples and boundaries are key.
Anyway. Guess I'll get down off my soap box, and enjoy my evening with my husband. The kiddo has fallen asleep and we can relax.