Life as a grown up is very different than life as a child. You have many conversations you don’t want to have with people you don’t want to have them with. You do it all with a smile on your face because you’re an adult and that’s what adults do. Yelling and screaming at people like you used to isn’t an option, no matter how appealing the thought.
I mean, you can yell and scream at people, but you wind up on Youtube shouting things like, “Go ahead and put this on Youtube. I don’t care!” You care, though. If not, you should. World Star.
So, we’re outwardly pleasant. Some of us are more pleasant than others, but no matter your place on the irritability spectrum, you’re more subdued in adulthood than when you were a kid. You’re not threatening too many people when you’re a grown up. If you do, then you used choke them when you were a kid. It’s all about, hopefully, being less explosive now than you were then.
It’s hard to always maintain that peaceful flow, though. In fact, the older you get, the more the obligations pile up. The more the obligations pile up, the more ready to snap you become. I’ve had mornings where I found myself, elbow-deep in responsibility and prepared to slam into walls long before most people even wake up. I’m frustrated and on the brink of explosions. But by the grace of coffee, I keep my cool and try to suppress any simmering anger.
Then, within an hour, I find myself cut off by a cackling soccer mom at school drop-off or checking out at the supermarket with an employee who can’t be bothered to say one word to me the entire transaction. It takes all the patience not to plow straight into her SUV or grab the cashier by the collar and scream, “We say “Good Morning” around here, you mutant!”
For the most part, though, I keep my cool. I’m zen-like with a slightly annoyed resting expression. People see that I’m friendly but, hopefully, they get the vibe that I’m not eager to play their reindeer games. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had my moments of insanity.
I once stared a guy down for grumbling under his breath about my 14 items on the 12 items of less line. That was fun. I should reiterate that it wasn’t from afar either. He was right behind me and, as I unpacked my basket and realized I went over, I became instantly embarrassed. I hate people who do that and here I was doing that. Rather than say something to me, like an adult, he sort of whispered to himself to an annoyed voice.
That’s not 12 items.
Without thinking, I started to pick up all my items from the conveyor belt and angrily toss them back in the basket. Then, as I turned to walk past him and leave the aisle, I put my face once inch from his and glared directly into his eyes with the harshest stare I could muster. It was a bizarre reaction and, strangely enough, almost automatic. A voice in my head even said, “What exactly are we doing right now?” He looked like he was going to throw up. It was the only time I ever did something like that. It was also totally worth it.
There are some altercations like that and some that, well, go a bit beyond. This is not my proudest story and I’m actually kind of surprised that I’m telling it. Like all the stories I share, this one is completely real and I’m sure there are many people who can relate.
I was on my way to a class party for my son, Lucas, and my stomach was tied up in knots. My boy is non-verbal with Autism and his behavior is sometimes a bit unpredictable. It could be a good visit or a bad visit. Sometimes it’s both. You never know until you’re there.
The last party I had gone to for him was the infamous pancake-stealing incident. That was a bad visit. Gorging his face with any food he could find was just one of the worries I had as I slowly drove my way down the packed road near my house. My head was all over the place, but my hands were firmly at ten and two.
I had no choice. I was passing a high school and the seniors were all making a mass exodus to the strip mall across the street for lunch. There were 16 and 17 year olds as far as the eye could see pouring from the doors and into the streets. Because of them, we all had to go ten miles an hour.
As I drifted past, a group of about five boys walked past my car. They were howling and laughing to each other in that manic way I remember from when I was in 12th grade. That’s the age where kids try to be edgy. That’s the age that these kids were.
Suddenly, one of them looked up at my windshield, locked onto my eyes, and yelled:
You can read between the asterisks on that one. To my face. Eye to eye. As I drove away. “F**k you.” Click.
I got to the end of the block and made, what I’m sure was, an illegal U-Turn in front of the bank. I came screeching up on the other side of the street and parked my car, crookedly, in front of the school right near the group of boys. I rolled down my passenger side window, leaned over and began shouting – loudly.
Yo! Hey! Yo! YOU! YEAH! YOU!
I feel like all five thousand kids looked up at once, but I was staring at just one. He wasn’t small. None of them were. These were full grown guys that I had just willingly pulled up on Def-Jam-style to confront. He looked over with his big foofy hairdo and oversized pants. I pointed right at him. I was seething.
You f**king say “F**k you” to me?!
He looked pretty freaked out.
What? No. No.
I wasn’t prepared for that. Honestly, I don’t know what I was prepared for. I was stuck for a response so I said the first thing that came to my malfunctioning mind.
Yeah! You damn right!
Then I drove off and went to my son’s class party as if I was a normal human being. There was no discussion about how I almost fought a group of children on the way over.
Don’t read this as me saying I’m some tough guy who could beat up at five guys at once. If I’m being honest, I highly doubt I would have. That’s what makes the story so insane. I kept thinking about the headline reading “Parenting Blogger Brawls With School Children In Front of School.” Cops would come. I’d miss Lucas’s party. We’d have to move. It would be a whole thing.
It happens, though. I think it’s important to share stories like this so people, who sometimes have moments that are similar, don’t feel there is something wrong with them. We all snap now and then. It’s understandable. It’s when it becomes the norm, rather than the exception, that you make some changes.
I think about that group of kids sometimes and imagine that they tell people the story of “that one time that middle-aged man came and yelled at Tommy in front of everyone.” I’m OK with that. If you can’t be at peace, at least be a story.