Most of the time, the strangers we meet while we're out are warm and sweet with my kids. Often, before we hurry out of a store, I'll extend a quick word of thanks to the people in line behind us for their kind interaction with my little ones while we've waited our turn.
Most of the time.
Yesterday as we headed out of a crowded grocery store and into the parking lot, both of the boys started singing ‘Deck the Halls’ and just generally being silly. By outdoors standards, they weren’t being very loud, just playful and happy. As I pushed our cart towards our car, Josh and Ella in the two seats, Jake walking alongside, we saw ahead of us a gentleman unloading a heaping shopping cart of stuff into the trunk of his car. As we got near, he glanced over at my caroling kids and yelled, “Quiet!”
I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not and, regardless, felt unsure how to respond. There was an internal tug-of-war as part of me wanted to inform this grouchy gentleman that I was quite alright with my children adding cheerful noise to the din since, after all, we were simply in a parking lot; the other part of me, the reserved, polite Canadian part, felt the instinct to apologize. But in that split moment of reflection, before I had a chance to decide either way, there came the unfiltered response of a child: 3-year-old Josh pointed a stern finger at this man and in a booming voice shouted back, “YOU be quiet, mister!”
I couldn’t contain my smile, and it was only after I had leaned forward and given Josh a kiss on his forehead that I gently corrected him, saying: “Joshy, you want to be kind to people, even those people who might not be kind to you.”
But as I glanced back at that gruff man, he had paused from his loading and was looking at my Josh, a giant grin transforming his previously Grinch-like expression.
Who knows? Maybe for that moment Josh’s response was the perfect one after all.