The wind, so typical in my neighborhood, picks up. I unload my boys from the car, wondering if shorts and flip flops were the best choice for them. (It’s late May!)
In the same way that they hear fire truck sirens long before I do, they instantly spot a small dog shivering away in front of the grocery store, his leash tied to a stack of houseplants for sale. We crouch near him, and the boys pet him tentatively. We don’t have any pets, so their interactions with animals are usually guarded at first.
A lady comments on the dog’s shivers, insinuating that we’re the cause. In my opinion, he’s more cold than frightened, but what do I know about dogs?
We’re about to say goodbye and head into the store when Trenton sticks his foot onto the little dog’s paw. The dog jumps back, but the lady’s reaction is far bigger. She acts like Trenton had just stomped the heck out of her toe, scolding me for “letting” him do that and whipping our her “I work at the humane society” card.
My heart is racing as it always does when Mama Bear flares up. I pointedly ask the woman if she has children and then (sarcastically) thank her for the scolding. Clearly not my finest moment! (And not even particularly witty either!)
I am usually a conflict avoider, but my children and my parenting strike a fierce reaction EVERY TIME they are confronted by a stranger. I can’t help myself! A sarcastic or passive aggressive comment almost always escapes! As much as I want to say that I’m going to change all at once and humble myself enough to take it with a smile, I know those blows hit too close to my core to extinguish immediately. Plus, when advice is given by an unrelated party (and at the cost of another person’s feelings over those of a dog!), I think standing up for yourself is merited.
That said, I don’t want to be rude, and I don’t often think quick on my feet either. So I decided that a rehearsed (albeit curt) response would be preferable to the sarcasm I’ve been known to let escape. In an effort to prepare for the next time Mama Bear is provoked, I have literally been walking around repeating these words out loud:
What do you think? It’s a step up from my gut reaction, right? I have said this aloud so much in the last couple of days that my three-year-old actually asked, “Why do you keep saying that?” (Ha!) But next time around, I am determined to be ready! I’ll let you know how it turns out. :)
What do you do when Mama Bear is provoked? Do you hold your tongue? Do you say something you usually regret? Do you stammer on the spot and then draft pointed comebacks in your mind for the next few days?
One more thing—
Once we were safely in the store and out of earshot of the animal crusader, I knelt down and asked Trenton why he had stepped on the dog’s paw.
“I just wanted it to lick my toes.”
All that for a no-harm-intended toe lick.