I haven’t had this happen in the entire 8 years I’ve been a parent. Took my kids to 7-11 to get snacks for “boys’ night”, our regularly scheduled night of staying up late and watching a movie. Friendly looking guy, probably a little drunk, says hi to the boys. They ignore him for the most part.
“Hey, can you guys ask this guy how he’s doing tonight?” he says.
“They’re a little shy,” I say with a smirk and roll my eyes.
“It’s just common courtesy. They should know that,” he tells me, loud enough for it to be taken as something he wants my kids to hear.
Now I’m ignoring him.
Kids are joking around and Ian rustles some bags of snacks at kid-level.
“Hey, come on kids. Don’t mess up the shelf! This guy works hard!”
Turn quietly toward him and say in a hush, “I don’t need help parenting my kids.”
“I’m not parenting your kids! I’m just talking to them!”
“Don’t talk to my kids.”
“Whatever, man. I think it’s time for you to go. Just leave.”
“Now that you’re done telling my kids what to do you need to tell me what to do?”
“Just get out of here.”
Finish my transaction. Apologize to the clerk. Walk out.
My main goals: 1. Stand up, in front of my kids, to someone asserting authority they don’t have. 2. Avoid escalating the situation into something that would scare my kids.
I used to tell my kids, when they’d fret about monsters coming into our house, “monsters aren’t allowed in our house because they have mud on their feet. I would be so mad if I had to clean that up.” I wanted my kids, if they noticed anything, to notice me putting this guy on notice.
Took the kids back to 7-11 the next day to get a pizza. We were a walking, talking sideshow. The kids were singing “pizza pizza pizza!” and for some reason “nugget in a biscuit, nugget in a biscuit!” the whole way there.
But, once there, the same clerk from the previous night was like, “hey, that guy last night? He’s crazy.” I said, “I know! What’s his problem?” He said, “no, he’s crazy. He’s usually fine, but sometimes he’s off his meds or something. He started talking to a woman the other day and she was smiling politely as he talked, but then he says, “you shouldn’t smile. You’re prettier when you’re not smiling.” and she said, “ok, I’m good at not smiling. I usually don’t smile at all.” and then after a few more things I didn’t hear, she threw up her arms and shouted, “you should just go fuck yourself, asshole!” He’s not allowed in here anymore.”
And again the next day I filled up the tank in my rental car at the same 7-11 and the clerk spoke to another customer in a different language, “blah blah blah blah crazy blah blah blah blah.” Then turns to me, and I’m already smiling because I heard the word crazy and felt like I was possibly involved in whatever he was saying – telling me that he was talking about this crazy guy – and says, “I was just telling him about that crazy guy. He’s had altercations with him too. Everybody needs to know it’s not just them!”
This is so true about all of life. Crazy people can hurt your feelings, but you need to know that it’s because they’re crazy and not because they actually had any valuable contribution to make to the never ending process of figuring out who you are.