Every minute of every day we spend with our children is a teaching moment. Some days provide ‘better’ lessons than others. Some days I wish I could erase the lessons learned and teach better ones. Other days I’m not sure what I taught or how I could have taught better.
Ella takes gymnastics one morning a week. Agatha HATES dropping Ella off. In fact (she says) she hates the entire building. But this past week, we dropped Ella off, Agatha wanted to stay and watch. So we did, but then I realized I forgot Cordelia’s coat (and we needed it when it was time to walk to the library) so we ran out to grab it. When we returned there was a woman sitting on one of the chairs we’d been sitting in before running outside. She had her back turned to a baby in a baby in a bumbo seat (roughly 4.5 ft off the ground). In front of the chairs was a narrow counter and a large viewing window. There were two other people sitting at the window with three seats available. On the far side of the woman and baby, behind a door, stood one chair with just enough space for one small person. The baby in the bumbo was in front of this chair, and a coat hung over the back. The other two were right in the middle, purses adorned the counter in front of them. Someone even sat in the least desirable spot in the entire room. The bench beside the purple Christmas tree. Even if the bench had been free, and she’d stood on it, Agatha wouldn’t have been able to see Ella. Oh and at this point Cordelia was crying because she was hungry and tired.
So we entered the room, and Agatha climbed up on one chair (bar stool), and I sat on the one beside her and started to feed Cordelia. The woman with the baby in the bumbo looked down at Agatha – did not look at me – and told Agatha “I think someone’s sitting there. There’s a purse on the counter. She probably just went to the bathroom. You can find somewhere else to sit.”
Agatha said, “I was here before, I just got Cordy’s coat. I want to see Ella in class.”
Woman: “I’m sure the woman wants to watch too, you can go sit somewhere else.”
Still the woman didn’t look at me, or say anything to me. But at that moment the women whose seats we ‘stole’ returned from the bathroom (or wherever they were). The three women all conferred, then the one woman leaned over me, bumping me, to get at her purse. I will point out that there was plenty of space between the chairs so she could have stepped up without touching anyone, and her purse was not on the other side of me. In other words, as far as I can see, this woman purposefully ‘bumped’ me. She did this three more times over the span of the three minutes we were actually sitting in the chairs.
Each time she bumped me, the other one bumped Agatha. Then one of the three loudly said, “Can you believe that? They won’t move.” And glare at us.
First, the women at any given time should have actually said something to ME, not the three-year old. Second, they’re full-grown 30+ year-old women they could have been mature enough to stand for the three minutes it took Agatha to locate her sister and be happy, and for me to latch Cordelia on. Third, they should never have touched either one of us.
I felt horrible. Not because we sat in someone else’s seat, but because of how they behaved toward us. It felt like middle school all over again. If we don’t overtly do anything really mean, we won’t get in trouble, but we’re gonna do everything we can to make her miserable.
After Cordelia settled enough for me to stand up, I did. I leaned down to Agatha and told her, “It seems it’s very important to these ladies that they sit down on these chairs. We’ve finished what we needed to do, how about we go play with the toys?” She agreed, we moved. All total, from sitting down to getting up, we might have been in the chairs for five minutes, probably less.
I didn’t want to allow those women to bully us out of the seats, but at the same time I no longer needed a seat, and Agatha had yet to realize anything was amiss. I didn’t want her to. Also by letting her know someone else wanted the seats, she had the opportunity to choose to share. She happily did so. Our children watch us at all times. They see how we treat others. They hear when and how we talk to others.
What do you want to teach your children?
At what point is it bullying, at what point is it just a misunderstanding or a difference of opinion, a meeting of opposite views? When I realized the other women wanted those chairs, viewed them as theirs, I could have asked their permission to use them briefly. I could have told Agatha not to sit there. I could have balanced Cordelia, and nursed her standing up. Those actions would have been ‘respectful’ to the other women. It would have been polite. We want our children to be respectful and polite. Don’t we?
Respect: Noun: A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements.
Verb: To admire deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
Polite: 1.Having or showing respectful behaviour. 2.Of or relating to people who regard themselves as more refined than others.
Should I have been respectful and polite? Did any of the women have a greater ‘right’ to the chairs than we did? Possibly. Their purses were close to the chairs. What would Agatha had learned if I hadn’t sat down? Possibly that others are more deserving than we are. We should stand, be uncomfortable, while others have the opportunity to sit. And empty chairs are not ours to use, no matter how brief. She might have learned that even though the chairs were empty, we didn’t take them because someone else was planning to use them. She would have learned a polite way to behave in society.
What would those other women teach watching children? If you don’t get your way, push others around. If someone has something you want, take it away. If you don’t like someone’s behaviour, don’t bother talking to them, instead whisper hurtful words behind their backs.
I’m not saying I was ‘right’ to sit down when I knew the other women believed the chairs were theirs, however I’m not really sure how else to have approached the situation. There were two paths. Either sit down, or stay standing. Was there a better path? Which one? Why?
There were seven seats at the window and three benches along the wall. Two benches had bins on them, one bench was taken. Was it wrong for Agatha and I to use the seats, considering there were purses on the counter near them, and there were no other seats? When there’s limited seating, should you save a seat if you’re not actually there?
What would you have done, if this was you? Would you have moved, or remained seated?