"This literally just happened to me while waiting for the Music Box Theater to open their doors for Pippin in NYC the other night. This total stranger, an older man, starts telling "epileptic jokes" to me, Ellie and our two friends. The ones that start with, "What do you call a salad tossed by an epileptic.... along with a few other equally distasteful ones involving seizures. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can have a pretty off color sense of humor but this was just crossing the line. I came very close to telling him a joke of my own:
I got several comments about how surprised they were I didn't tell this guy where to go and how to get there; especially from my friends and family who know me so well and were shocked that I kept my mouth shut.
The reason I chose to not confront this guy is a little complicated. First of all, we were in a VERY crowded theater on Broadway on a Saturday night and I was with my middle daughter, Ellie, her best friend, Hannah, and my best friend, Kellie (who also just happens to be Hannah's mom). Second, we were there in the first place because this was sort of a big trip for Ellie. We had just come from "Admitted Students Day" at the college of her choice and were now in the City for the night to take in a Broadway Show. Pretty exciting stuff for a kid from a small island who will soon be heading off to NYC for college. In other words this was Ellie's time and I didn't want to ruin it by getting into a heated discussion with a total stranger right before the doors opened to the show and ruin everyone's evening.
Now make no mistake about it, if Tess had been there and this guy had been telling those "jokes", I would have left him with a very clear understanding of my feelings on the subject and Tess would know that, once again like always, mama had her back. However, there are some instances where keeping quiet and letting something go is the best way to handle it. Tess wasn't there but Ellie and our friends were, and I didn't want one man's ignorance to throw a shadow over the fun weekend that we had been experiencing. That's how I felt that night and I how I still feel when I look back on it. It showed Ellie that she is important as well and that I chose to put her evening's happiness ahead of my own need to want to tear this man apart. I know she would have totally supported me and understood if I had given this man a piece of my mind, and so would our friends, but I think everyone was happier going into that show with no angry words left hanging in the air.
Now I need to backtrack a bit. Earlier that day while riding on the Staten Island Ferry on our way back into the city, I saw a man with a little boy, probably ten or eleven years old. This boy was having a complete meltdown. Pulling on his dad, hitting him, yelling at him, and even at one point, nearly throwing his dad down the stairs because he was trying so hard to get away from him. I noticed the other passenger's stares at this duo. Some wore looks of obvious disgust that the dad wasn't making his son "behave", others were curious and still others, like me, probably recognized what was really happening.
The little boy had special needs.
Many of the behaviors the little boy was displaying made me think that possibly he had some form of Autism. Flapping hands, refusal to make eye contact with anyone; even his dad. Walking on tip-toes, and the constant thrashing of his body as if trying not only to get away from his dad, but even himself. As for the dad, he would calmly try to redirect his son and never once yelled or got too physical.
I was unsure of what to do. I knew I had Tess's Ipad with me and gave a momentary consideration to offering it to the dad for his son to play with. Then I wondered if being approached by a total stranger would be too overwhelming for the boy and escalate what was happening.
As I was debating with myself over whether or not to ask if I could help in any way, another woman started telling the boy to, "Stop being mean to your daddy. Stop being a bad boy. Be a good boy." My heart broke for this dad who was just trying to get thru the ride and was now being passive-aggressively told that he should be disciplining his child by a stranger and that since he clearly wasn't going to do it, then she would.
Immediately after that the man redirected his son to a different area of the boat. He never got angry with the woman who had so very clearly misjudged the situation and lectured his son. He simply chose to keep his mouth shut and move on.
Maybe that is what inspired me to keep my mouth shut later that night? Maybe not. But I do know this, I don't regret keeping quiet with the man at the theater, but I sure do regret not saying something encouraging, or even just kind, to the struggling dad on the Staten Island Ferry.
I know there are many days when I feel very grateful when someone tells me that I'm a good mom. This guy was a good dad. I should have told him so.