I had a tough day today. It started out fine. We got a call yesterday that the boys won raffle ticket prizes from their library summer reading program so I packed up all 4 kiddos and we walked down to the library. Samuel won a stencil set and Z won a t-shirt and patch to sew on. He's already stained the t-shirt but he's still happy so who cares, right?
Then everything went downhill during naptime. Some of the boys' neighbor friends, a brother and sister, had some cousins over. When the boys saw them out playing, they ran over only to be told that they only wanted family time and didn't want to play with anyone else. Okay, fine. No problem. The boys came in to tell me and I said I was sorry that they were sad but they could just play around our house. I wish that had been the end of the story.
The neighbor kids (the brother and sister and their two cousins) took over the whole yard. I'm talking a wild, screaming game of tag around the front and back of our apartment (they live in the building across from the front of our house but they chose to play around our building) and it was kind of cruel, I thought, to tell our boys that they couldn't play with them but then to take up all the play space and not even by their own building!
So. They ran by and happened to pause by our back door and I stepped out and said to the brother (who is 12 and a nice kid), "Hey, _ , I know you guys are having family time and that's great but our boys want to play outside, too, and if you guys don't want them to join, do you think maybe you could play on the other side of the building? Then everyone has play space and my boys won't upset your mom. Thanks!" He said okay and walked away.
Okay, I should explain that their mother, whom we have not have had a lot of contact with other than "Hello" and "how are you", has yelled at our boys a few times for playing in front of her apartment and has sent them inside to me in tears. And she sits on her front porch when all the kids are around and has screaming cussing conversations on the phone, which my boys overhear. Yea. And oh yeah, she got mad when our boys and another neighbor build a worm house in the grass near her apartment a couple months ago and threw the worms all over our porch.
Just some background info.
I was very pleasant when talking to the brother but I noticed one of the older cousins run off and I had a sudden unpleasant premonition of trouble. I ran to the window in the front of the house and saw and overheard the girl gesturing towards our house angrily and lying about what happened. Oh yes, I heard her. I thought I should probably run over and explain what happened so the mother would know I hadn't just yelled at her kids or something.
I don't think I'm a very threatening person. I came over and stood at a distance and very politely said, "Hi! I just wanted to you let you know what just happened." and I explained really quickly. She turned to me and it was like laser beams of death were shooting out at me. She opened her mouth and I almost took a physical step back (and I was already about 10 ft away) because of the venom spewing out of her. She said, "Do you own this place? Is this your yard? Are you telling MY kids where they can play? Are you restricting where MY kids can play?!" I won't even repeat most of what she said because she was so incredibly angry and I was thinking in my head, "What the heck is happening here? Am I in the twilight zone? Am I making an enemy? How do I get out of this and still be loving and kind and not make this worse?" She spewed so much stuff at me, it was crazy. She kept contradicting herself, saying all the kids could play wherever they wanted (meaning her kids) and yet she kept pointing out patches of bald grass in front of her house, saying the kids (my kids) should go play by our house and not ruin "her" grass and play by her house. What??
She brought up the worm incident and that's when I started to get a little ticked, although I kept my voice deliberately really calm. She ranted about how angry she was that she had to work so many days and hours (I have no idea what this had to do with anything) and then she comes out and there are 300 worms (there were around 20) in the grass in front of her apartment (it is a strip of grass that runs between two buildings and it DOES NOT BELONG TO ANYONE EXCEPT THE LANDLORDS. Just thought I'd make that clear.) And she raved about how angry it made her. I said, "They were just playing and you threw the worms all over our porch? That was.. rude." (keep in mind and I'm not kidding, my voice was gentle even though I was frustrated.) She retorted, "You would've done the same thing, too!" I shook my head in disbelief and said, "No, I wouldn't actually. I would never throw worms on someone's porch." And she had the audacity to argue with me that I would and a whole bunch more nonsense.
That's when I realized things weren't adding up here. Why was this woman, with whom I've never had a decent conversation in my life, so incredibly angry?? So I asked her. I backed down and looked at her and said, "Why are you so angry with me?" She said, "ANGRY? You don't know me! If I was angry, I'd be cussing at you and you'd KNOW I was angry! You don't know me and now I'm an angry person." And she turned away and started texting and muttering to herself.
I said, "I just came over to explain what happened. I didn't mean to cause a problem. I'm really sorry." And she said, "I am DONE with this conversation! I am done!" and turned her back on me. I apologized again and walked away. And then burst into tears and barely made it into the house before I started sobbing.
I don't like confrontation. I don't like when people are rude and angry for no reason. I don't like being yelled at. I really don't like walking away feeling like the bad guy when I was just trying to stick up for my kids and explain what was going on. Was it too much to ask for my boys to have a little space to play in our yard?
I called Ben on the phone, so upset I could barely talk and he calmed me down. But the sad tears came a little while later when my boys came up to me with tear-filled eyes after asking these neighbor kids if tomorrow would be a good day to play, only to be told that their mother had banned them from ever being friends with or playing with our boys again. Really?? You're going to use your kids to hurt my kids? Because you're mad at me?? Really??
Sometimes being a parent stinks. Sometimes doing the right thing stinks. Sometimes people stink. I told my boys that none of this was their fault. They didn't do anything wrong and that the kids' mother was an angry person and didn't deal with things well and we were just going to stay away from playing in front of their apartment to keep the peace. And we will try to love and be kind. (even though it might be REALLY hard!)
So, I ask you, to please pray for me. I am so upset over this. I never ever wanted to create an enemy or cause some huge problem. I didn't want my boys to be hurt. And I'm not sure how to fix this situation or if it even can be fixed. I just know I have to keep praying to love this angry woman and forgive her and figure out how to be kind even though I'm alternately hurt and sad and angry. Her words just keep running through my mind and I keep wondering if I should have handled it differently. I really think that I had the right to ask for my boys to be able to play outside. I was nice about it. I've never ever been rude to her kids and I hope I never will be, despite my feelings about what happened.
Loving people is really hard sometimes. Especially when they aren't very lovable. But I guess that's what being Christ-like is all about right? Loving people, like He loves us, even when they aren't lovable. Ouch.