Step Off, Lady
I took my girls with me to the local courthouse today to pay a traffic fine. Remember, today is the day I'm trying to remember to breathe and not yell.
So there I was, in a very unadorned municipal office, standing in a long line of weary people unhappy to fork over their hard earned cash, hoping my girls would act at least partially civilized. And pretty much, I'd say they were precisely partially civilized. The other part was sort of Animal Kingdom-ish, but it wasn't the worst display I've ever seen.
When you have small children in a long line, in a boring office with nothing interesting to look at, they tend to get a little squirrely. Mind did. But they also occupied themselves by making up their own game having something to do with jumping over the linoleum squares, stepping on acceptable squares, avoiding squares of death, etc. Then they started playing tag, which was a little much. I did my best to stop them, and I was mostly successful, but they were defiant with me. They tried to evade my gaze and my capture, and when I finally did get them to come over to me, they were pushy and squirmy and not listening particularly well. I was kind of annoyed and embarrassed, but I was also trying to remind myself that they weren't screaming, they weren't being mean to each other or anyone else, and their behavior wasn't that bad.
There was another little girl in line with her mom, right in front of us. This little girl was quiet, and wouldn't leave her mom's side. Tallulah tried engaging her a little, but the girl wasn't interested, and I called Tallulah away. The other girl was definitely more compliant than my children; when she was swinging the rope divider-thingee too much, her mother told her sternly to stop, and stop she did.
It was a long wait. When it was almost our turn, my mind was occupied by weighing the girls' good behavior against their bad behavior, and concluding that while it wasn't great, it wasn't awful, and at least I stayed calm. I had worked hard not to let myself get to that sweaty frustrated place with them, because like sharks, those girls can smell a mother on the verge of losing control and go in for the kill. It can be tough to figure out when to step in, when to let things go, and what's more important: having a relatively fight-free afternoon or lowering the boom and making everyone miserable. I was thankful that I was next in line; soon I could take my pretty good, slightly evil girls home.
One of my fellow line members apparently did not concur with my assessment. By this point, the girls were sitting against a wall, quietly, just a few feet away from the other little girl, who was also sitting quietly waiting for her mom. A grandmotherly-looking woman in line leaned towards the three girls and said to the one who was not mine: "How old are you sweetheart?" The girl answered four. Then the woman said: "Well, you are a very well-behaved little girl, you know that? You are very well behaved, dear!" My girls looked at her like "Yeah, and she's bored stiff."
Then, as the mother of the little girl turned to go, the woman in line said to her: "Your little girl is very well mannered, you should be proud!" The mother said "Thank you, I try." To which, the woman in line who was really starting to annoy me said: "I can tell you do, dear; not everyone does, but I can sure tell that you do. More people should try! Good for you."
I guess that just proves the old adage: If you don't have anything nice to say, triangulate.
That's just what I need on a day when I'm trying to "be the change." Judgement and snarkiness from a stranger. It's a cold world out there, people. I hope that busy-body grandmother has a sweater and I hope she doesn't live in a glass house.
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