So, this is a tale of a most unpleasant child. Two days before Christmas, I ran into a store for a quick errand. I’m in the wrong aisle, looking for tape, when I hear a pre-adolescent male cussing up a storm in the next row.
“F you! I don’t F-ing want that! Quit F-ing showing me that.”
I assume the little foul mouth is talking to one of his peers, and as I round the corner to go into the aisle where both the voice and the tape should be, I mentally prepare myself for a mini testosterone fest.
But what I saw was much worse than little boys bumping their scrawny chests together and posturing like roosters. What I saw was that this boy, of maybe 12 years old at the oldest, was not talking to another kid.
He was talking to an elderly woman.
To be honest, I don’t know their story, but in the few minutes that made up our interaction, there were plenty of assumptions to be had.
I might have assumed that this child would have the sense to be embarrassed and stop treating an old woman like that in public when a stranger was less than 5 feet away and looking directly at him.
But he didn’t.
He just kept saying “I don’t F-ing want this. F you” to the old woman, like a 5 times in a row, all while I was standing right there with my jaw dropped, and she was trying to appease him with finding an appropriate product to buy him.
Now, I’ve seen plenty of rude people of all ages, and I know I’ve been rude myself on plenty of occasions, but I have never seen a kid treat an elderly person they know like that, let alone one who was buying them something.
Without even thinking about it, I looked him in the eye and said “Don’t talk to her like that.”
Not surprisingly, he responded with another “F you too!” but this one was directed at me.
All of his “F you’s” were of course the full version of the four letter word, but really, that was literally all he had to say. I mean, it wasn’t just interspersed amongst other insults~ it was like a broken record. I don’t know if this kid ever has much in the way of verbal skills, but it was clear that in his rage, he had some really limited ability to form sentences or find words to use aside from the one.
But what was surprising for me was that I held my own temper.
Even though he had just told me to F off, I just repeated myself “Don’t talk to her like that. It’s not OK to treat her that way.”
All he could say was “F You” which he did several more times” although he did add some chest puffing in there, which was hard not to laugh at.
My instinct was to let loose a slew of insults and cut the little punk down to size (although he was already rather petite) but being 2 days before Christmas, and since I’m trying to be a nice person and more Christ-like and all, I tamed my tongue.
Also, I didn’t want to stoop to his level and be featured in some "People of the Dollar Tree" video that found its way to the internet, nor did I want to be that lady who insulted a child until she made him cry…. even if he was being a little a-hole.
So, I held back from commenting about how even though it must be sad to have your Grandma buying your cheap Christmas presents because your crackhead parents were in prison or on the streets, you should still have the sense be grateful.
I resisted the urge to tell him that it was okay that he had a limited vocabulary because his favorite word was going to be all he’d be hearing in juvenile hall, from boys much bigger and stronger than himself, but it would be taking on a whole new meaning. Nor did I add that resistance would be futile because from the looks of it, my 4 year old nephew could beat him up.
I also didn’t mention that I was sure I’d be seeing him on the street begging for money in a few years, nor suggest he get markers and a poster board now to get started with practicing making his begging signs now.
What I did tell him was that he was behaving like an obnoxious little child and that he should be embarrassed.
He grunted a bit in rage, and said...you guessed it…. “F you!” once more and then huffed and puffed like a cartoon character, flared nostrils and all. I shook my head, gave him a look of pity and emphasized the words “You should be ashamed.”
At this point, I felt a bit tempted to do an impression of the old hag in Princess Bride and start pointing at him and saying “Boo, Boo, Booooooooo!” at him while calling him “King of Garbage”, but I just looked away (with obvious distaste) found the tape I needed and walked off.
As I stood in the long line to pay, it crossed my mind to tell the 2 burly cashiers that there was a preteen boy verbally abusing an elderly woman and I was afraid he was going to become violent, mostly because I think it would have done him some good to have full grown men tell him his behavior was not acceptable. But by then I saw the elderly woman come around the corner pushing her cart. Young Punk was a ways behind, red faced, hoodie over his head, and eyes averted, and while he probably wasn’t wanting to heed my advice, he did look rather embarrassed, although you could tell he was trying to maintain a tough guy look.
The whole situation only lasted a few minutes, but it really impacted my day. I was initially angered and appalled, but really, it’s scary to think if that boy is allowed to treat that old woman that way in public now, before he’s even finished puberty, what is going to do when he is bigger than her?
Also kind of scary was the meanness that grew in me after witnessing this~ it was fast and full force, and really, really unpleasant. There was a time when every harsh thought that popped into my head would have lashed out at him, cutting and sharp, but I’m glad that this day, I knew enough to redirect.
I avoided attacking his character or background, and just stuck to calling out his behavior as unacceptable.
Well, I did wish him Merry Christmas and good luck in juvie before we parted, but mostly, I did really well in holding back.
I’m still not sure if I reacted in the best way, but I did do the best that I could, and I had to do something.
Because I was so upset by this incident, I asked a few people afterward what they would have done. The responses varied wildly.
One person (a teenager) suggested they would have slapped him, but I pointed out that hitting people is neither legal nor helpful.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone else said they weren’t sure if they would have said anything at all because the kid wouldn’t listen anyway. Whether he listens or not, not saying anything just reinforces that the behavior is OK, when it clearly is not.
I mean, can you really watch someone cuss out an old lady and not say anything???????
This made the lyrics of a Rush song play in my mind "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."
While I don’t think that hitting the kid or cutting him with words would have helped, as a society, I can’t believe that we should resign ourselves to ignoring and accepting abusive behavior.
Sometimes people need to be called out for their stuff.
While I don’t know exactly what the best way to do that is, I do know that a village looks after each other, and doesn’t just look away when a member is being bullied or hurt.
So, I’m curious...what would you have done? I would honestly love to hear what other people think so please do tell in the comments below.
Thanks! And Merry Christmas!!!!
Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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