This must be one of the longest moments of my life. I swore that I must have held my breath the whole time that I witnessed an old lady being extremely nasty to my son while she repeatedly accused him of doing something he didn’t do. To make matters worse, she got her cronies to gang up on my son as well.
We were at the pool earlier today. It’s a hot saturday afternoon and I brought my boys for a swim with some friends. They were busy playing at the deep end of the pool under my supervision and might have got a little boisterous, but since it was the deep end of the pool, I knew full well that they won’t have to worry about getting in the way of the little children or anyone who wasn’t an apt swimmer.
However, before I knew it, an old lady climbed out of the deep end of the pool and started shouting at my son and pointing her finger at him. All the children stopped playing and were trying to figure out what the matter was. Unfortunately, the lady was repeatedly shouting at my son in Chinese (which he doesn’t speak) and was pointing her finger in his face and my son didn’t understand a word she said nor was he able to get a word in, to ask her what was wrong.
As I sat nearby watching, I wanted to see how my son would handle the situation and partly, I was hoping that the issue would resolve itself so I didn’t have to go there and fix her. But it didn’t, the old lady summoned her daughter and son-in-law (who are all rather aged adults by the way) and told them that my son tried to kill her by repeatedly kicking her and ramming her with his foam swimming board. Before I knew it, all three of them were screaming at my son and pointing their fingers in his face.
I rushed to the scene and asked my son what happened and before he could get a word in, they jumped right in front of my face and accused me of not watching my son while he tried to deliberately hurt her. I totally ignored them and turned to my son and asked him what happened. Shaken and confused, he calmly explained that he didn’t do anything except play with his friends.
By the time he was done explaining, the lady had summoned her daughter to call all the life guards on duty, the people from the clubhouse management office and even told her to call the police. The life guards looked reluctant to be at the scene but they tried their best to calm the old lady down. Her accusations suddenly took a turn to include my younger 8 year old son as well. She shouted at him saying that he kicked her several times. I quickly surmised that the children must have accidentally kicked the old lady while they were playing and swimming in the deep end of the pool so I asked both my boys to apologize to the old lady because they might have accidentally kicked her while they were swimming.
My boys apologized but neither she nor her cronies paid any attention as they were too busy shouting at my boys and I, and pointing their fingers at us. My own patience was wearing thin but I kept telling myself that getting upset will make me look just as ugly as they did, so I kept my cool in the hope that my boys would do likewise. As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, the son-in-law said that my boys really shouldn’t be kicking in the pool. I was perplexed and calmly asked him if he has ever tried swimming without kicking his legs. He didn’t have a reply for me.
Then, he said that my son was trying to deliberately hurt his mother in law and he said that he’d rather my son tried to hurt him instead and spare his old lady. So I asked him how could a 10 year old deliberately hurt someone (or get anything done for that matter) when he’s busy playing with his friends. He was stumped and then he shouted at me and said that my son was too big-sized to be 10 years old. To which I replied “is it my fault if god made him grow big? or are we going to blame god now?”. He kept quiet for a while before he resumed shouting at my son for trying to hurt his mother in law.
There was so much shouting and screaming and finger pointing at our faces that it was getting rather annoying. I knew that these people were unreasonable and I pitied them, but more importantly, I felt bad for my boys: that they had to witness the stupidity of fully grown people who were behaving far worse than preschool children.
Finally, the people from the clubhouse management office arrived and they calmly ushered us to a more secluded area as the screaming old lady and her cronies were attracting quite a crowd. We adjourned to a quieter spot which quickly filled with more screaming and shouting. The representative from the management office calmly spoke to both parties to try to get a better picture of the situation. When she was speaking to the old lady who was also screaming at her, I turned to my boys and hugged them and said that this was totally not their fault and that it was only an accident at worst, and explained that some people are not well and are not behaving like they should.
My boys looked confused and upset with the way the whole situation escalated. But they stood near me and I kept my hand on them as much as I could. I couldn’t really hear what the rep from the management office was saying to the old lady but there appeared to be more screaming and shouting from across the hallway. By the time the rep got to us, my 10 year old was in tears. he was totally overwhelmed by the whole situation. I held him in my arms and assured him that it’s ok to be scared and upset. I also told him that I was getting annoyed but we had to hold it together for just a little longer.
The clubhouse rep was able to get the old lady and her cronies to calm down. She said that the old lady demanded that my boys apologized to her and to swear that they will never kick in the pool again. I looked at her in shock at such a ridiculous request but we both concluded that we could ask the boys to apologize to the old lady for possibly accidentally kicking her in the pool and to promise to be more careful around old ladies next time.
My boys agreed, wiped off their tears, fought back more tears, bravely walked over to the old lady and her cronies and apologized again, and promised to be more careful. They shook her hand and massaged her knee (which she accused them of kicking repeatedly).
When we saw that she had calmed down and was ok with the whole situation, all three of us left in a hurry. We had enough of all the screaming and shouting and the finger-in-the-face treatment and wanted to get away from it all. We were shaken up, especially my 10 year old who felt poorly about the whole situation. He has always been a considerate and empathetic child and he felt that he was the one who caused all the distress that we all experienced today. I held him in my arms and asked him how he felt. Still fighting back his tears, he was too sad for words.
I shared my feelings with him and told him that I was angry because we were shouted at for no apparent reason, upset because we were being accused for something we didn’t do and disappointed with how inconsiderate some people are, and pitiful because these people are so bitter and sore. I asked him if he felt that way too and he said yes. I could sense that he was trying to keep it all together and to put up a brave front for me…..so I wouldn’t be worried about him. But when his dad held him, he just completely melted into his arms and I could see tears freely streaming down his cheeks.
I told him that I was proud of him for being patient with people who needed it, for being calm when others weren’t, for not retaliating even when he had all the reasons to, and for being brave for me and his little brother.
As I read and re-read this article, I kept asking myself if I should have done this or that, if I should have stood up to the old lady and given her a piece of my mind so that my boys can learn to fend for themselves, or if I should have given her a taste of her own medicine in hopes that she would think twice the next time she decides to pick on children, or if we should have walked away because we were not at fault….but I too had a choice and I chose to be kind and I wanted my boys to see me make that choice. I want them to look back on this and say that some people tried to bully us but instead of being nasty, we remained calm, decided that we would not let it get to us and showed kindness.
What I consciously did was to remember not to tell my boys that they shouldn’t be sad or worried or stressed or that they shouldn’t cry…..because these feelings and emotions are only a part of our everyday life. Instead, I helped them identify their feelings, to understand them, to cope with them and to problem solve. This was a good learning opportunity for them and for me.
Even though it was an unpleasant incident, we walked away from it having a better understanding of how to handle unpleasant situations, being more emotionally aware, being empowered knowing that we can chose what we want to do and feel, feeling proud that we have chosen wisely and being a little more confident that we can handle the next crazy situation that comes our way. As for me, I told my hubby that there wasn’t much we could do to control the situation and that unpleasant situations are unavoidable and bound to happen again in the future. However, I’m just glad that this time, I was there with them and we could provide them with the love and support that they needed to work through this and that my boys were comfortable enough coming to either my hubby or me for emotional support.
The day after this incident, I casually asked my son what he took away from it and this is what he said….
“I’ve learnt that we need to be kind and patient with people who need it the most. I’ve also learnt that accidents happen and that it’s ok to apologize even though it’s not our fault”
This is what I hope my boys will learn:
- Character Development: KINDNESS – is a rare character trait especially in a dog-eat-dog world. while many see it as a disadvantage to be kind, it is actually a necessity for happiness and health. I hope that my boys will learn to be kind caring to themselves and to others so that we can create a better world for ourselves and our children.
- EQ development: EMOTIONAL AWARENESS – is about being able to understand our emotions and that of others. I have always felt that this was an extremely important for my children and I to learn how to identify our emotions, express it appropriately, redirect and focus our emotional energy in powerful and constructive ways so that we can use it to grow and to move forward. High EQ is particularly valuable for developing resilience.
- Development of RESILIENCE: also known as the ability to bounce back from difficulties and struggles- is the key to our children’s future success and happiness. I understand that we can never run away from trials and tribulation but I want to teach my children how to cope with stress, to regroup and to make a grand comeback. More importantly, I want my boys to know that we are here for them when they need us and that they can come to us for support or a shoulder to cry on. Resilience is the key to not only surviving difficulties but also to become better for it.
“Parenting is not about sheltering our children from pain and the ugliness of this world, it’s about giving them the tools to survive it, to thrive inspite of it and to make this world a better place”