Happily Even After
Confrontation at the Post Office
by Stacey Noem
Before I begin sharing a little story, first let me say that I highly respect the Postal Service and am most grateful for the very hard work they do…
I had a time-sensitive package to mail, so I ended up having to take Simon (4) and Lucy (2) to the post office with me. We ended up stopping at the post office closest to Simon’s Montessori school (a Franciscan Montessori school, how cool is that?). This particular office is VERY big. They have lots of post office boxes, mail supplies, a passport station, greeting cards and something like six separate service stations. Unfortunately, at the very busy noon hour, only two of the stations were servicing the line (even though there were more workers at the other stations NOT servicing the line) and the line was about 10-12 people long when we got in.
I imagine many parents have gone through the same feelings I had when I initially walked in: Thinking, “Hmmm, is this going to be too much with the children?” and then either cutting and running or pushing on through. Simon and Lu seemed to be in a good place and I had to get this package in the mail, so I pushed on through.
At first the two of them were staying pretty close to me, asking questions and looking around. Then Simon asked if he could go look at some of the packing materials. Lucy followed him over and they gradually moved on to the greeting cards, looking at pictures and chatting in little child talk back and forth. At this point I am still eight people back in line and the children are probably about three yards away from me. They would come check in from time to time and then go back to looking. Then Simon realized Lucy was following him and he didn’t like that, but we managed to turn it into a game where I would hold Lu, he would hide and she would go find him. Well, when she found him they began chasing each other in a circle around one of the displays.
Now, I acknowledge whole-heartedly, that I get irked when a parent pays no attention to their children’s behavior in public and their children act like little hellions. However, Lu and Simon were away from ALL the other patrons and counters, the display was solid and not something that could tip and they were being very quiet even as they chased round and round it.
Then the confrontation:
Postal worker (leaning over the counter, past the patron he is helping): “You are going to have to stop them from doing that. This isn’t a playground.”
Me (embarrassed but also slightly annoyed because the children had held it together admirably for over 15 minutes and deserved props for that): “With all due respect, if the line wasn’t so long, they wouldn’t need to do that.”
Postal worker (not making eye contact but not backing down): “Well, that’s just the way it is.”
Me (not really capable of backing down where my children are concerned): “Well, they’re children and that’s just the way it is.”
Leaving the post office (after holding the children right next to me and being taken care of by a different postal worker) there was so much going through my head. Of course I called Joshua immediately and recounted the incident for him. Happily, he laughed heartily at the exchange…then, he noted that I don’t take guff from anyone. And that got me thinking.
I do take a little bit of pride in being able to stand up for myself, and that is part of what was going on there.
I also recognized soon after becoming a mother that I really stand my ground where my children are concerned (hyper-mother bear instinct), and that was also part of what was going on there.
The main thing I got to thinking about though, was “What is this like when it’s aimed at Joshua? What does Joshua have to put up with or wade through when I feel like I am just standing up for myself?” When we get into conversations or discussions and I have a ready retort or can’t simply receive his input with some reflective silence? I’ll have to try to be more conscious of this in those moments with him. He’s a saint to bear with me…but he clearly gets a kick out of when someone else is on the receiving end!