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Go ahead and act like an asshole in front of my kids. Really, I’m fine with it.
Sure, if you scream at the little league coach in front of my 7-year-old daughter like a maniac, I’m going to try to calm you down. That’s just what I do. You look insane and irrational and a bit scary. You’re being rude and loud and out-of-line.
But that’s okay. Go ahead. Let my kid see how you’re not supposed to behave at a children’s sporting event. Let her hear other adults say, “WHAT on EARTH was THAT about?” Let her understand that some people need to be watched, that she can’t always trust people to be reasonable. Let her observe how others try to diffuse an uncomfortable and potentially threatening situation. Let her see a dad make a bad judgment call, see his son be embarrassed by it, wonder whether that dad realized what he did and made amends to his kid later that night. Let her wonder if maybe you just had a bad day and spun a little out of control. Let her roll the “maybes” around in her head to try and understand people a little better.
And not just that dad at the ballpark; bad drivers, this one’s for you too.
Sure, if you ignore the big ‘Yield’ sign and tear through an intersection, I’m going to slam on my brakes and yell out the window, “LOOK OUT!” as you mouth angry things at me. That’s just self-preservation. You ignored the law. You put my family in danger.
But that’s okay. Go ahead. Let my kids see how you’re not supposed to act behind the wheel. Let them hear me get angry that you blew off a sign and almost crashed into my car. Let them feel the fear of a near-accident, know what it’s like to be in the way of someone who doesn’t pay attention, doesn’t think the rules apply to him. Let them see you flush with embarrassment at we pull up beside you at the next light when you look into the windows and realize whom, exactly, you almost just crushed. Let them wonder whether you’ll put your phone down, pay attention to traffic signs, be more careful the rest of your journey. Let them put themselves in your shoes, think of what they would have done differently.
I’m sure I act like an asshole in front of my kids on occasion too, but I think it’s important for them to see you do it. They need to see adults they don’t know make mistakes—or show their true colors. They need to feel uncomfortable, scared, worried, or angry at how other people act, because how we act does affect those around us. They need to think about what to do in that situation, what could happen next, and what they’d change about it, all in the safety of close proximity to their parents. I’m there, it’s going to be okay, but their wheels get a-turning when they witness the assholier side of grown-ups.
No, I don’t think you, who screamed at the kids’ baseball game, are a lost cause, or you, who almost drove your car into ours, are destined for vehicular manslaughter. But I do think you behaved like assholes, scared my kids, added a little threat to our day. And I also think you helped open my kids’ eyes a bit to why they should never act like you did, and for that, I thank you.