How do know when it’s time to rise above and when it’s time to punch someone right in the face? Better yet, how do you teach “rising above” to your munchkin when the protective parent in you wants to lash out?
Recently, we had to end a business arrangement with someone close to us- literally, next door to us. I expected the split to be amicable because… I’m naive. Kidding, but really, I gave a paid 2 week notice, did not mention the real reasons (which were difficult) I needed to end it and was kind and empathetic through the ordeal. A 20 minute friendly conversation turned toxic about 3 seconds after I said we wouldn't need her services anymore. To make matters worse, she then unfriendly me on Facebook (gasp!) and then began sending intensely crappy text messages. I rose above, though I wanted to call her out on her lies, and said nothing. Our next interaction (we are neighbors, of course, so it was literally 8 hours before I saw her again) was a cold one, but I kept my cool, smiled politely, gave space, and was my normal, friendly self.
The next day it got worse. She had now told her children (younger than mine!) that they weren’t allowed to talk to me or to my daughter and that they could never play with us again- what had been a daily occurrence. This new rule was reiterated to my daughter several times by her kids every time they passed us.
“Why are they acting that way to me?” “How can an adult want to be mean to a kid?” are the questions I’m answering daily. “Sometimes people just suck. But it doesn't change how we treat people, does it?”
We’re over a week out now, and have had this not-so-gentle reminder several times daily from her kids that we are not worthy of being their play dates because of this matter. What makes it ugly is that she’s sent her kids on a mission to assault my daughters’ heart in an effort to get back at me for not using her services anymore. It’s very sad. And then it’s infuriating.
Yesterday I had had enough. I looked as I walked my dog and told myself “If she’s outside, I’m going over there!” And I raged internally about what I would say to her after hurting my daughter and teaching her kids that sort of ugliness. She wasn't outside. So I fumed to my husband who was just as heartbroken for our girl as I was. He said “That’s it. I’m not having it! If they say that in front of me, I’m going to tell them where to go, and I don’t care if the mom is there or not, because I’ll tell her too!” That’s the reaction I wanted… wasn't it? It certainly mirrored my frustration and was what I wanted to do.
But, of course, we quickly realize that we’re not raising a daughter with a vengeful attitude. Not raising a bully either. Nor would we ever want her to say the same things we wanted to say. So why were we plotting to model ugliness? I had talked myself down before, and I’m sure I’ll talk myself down again. “What about teaching assertiveness? What about teaching her not to be bullied?” “I have a bully right now as a grown- up, shouldn't I teach how to handle it if you’re an adult?” Yes, I should. Which is why I should shut my own mouth.
Our fleeting satisfaction with telling those people to shut up and not talk to us would not bring us the long term satisfaction that raising a kind-hearted, forgiving daughter would bring.
So, we rise above. We remember that kindness should be our first reaction to everyone- including those who aren't kind to us. Maybe they’ll realize the error of their ways, maybe not. But we don’t have to attend every dispute we’re invited to.