Who’s in the wrong here? Hard to tell.

by Melissa Stewart

Two wrongs don’t make a right OR is it an eye for an eye? Oh the choices we have to make on a daily basis! Have I mentioned that I’m not perfect? Maybe you’ve caught one of my tweets proudly proclaiming me to be a “Work in Progress” or WIP? No matter, let me just drive the point home and get something off my chest in one post.

I just got back from a quick trip to the beach. I love the ocean. Cool breezes and the sound of the waves. Watching the sunset. So peaceful and then… Well, let’s start at the beginning. One beautiful Sunday morning we toted our chairs, umbrella and cooler down to the beach, surveyed the site options and opted for a nice spot that nobody wanted because of a four foot sand wall you had to jump off of to get to the water. Being the industrious tourists that we are, we built steps in the sand directly in front of our chairs. They were beauties and fully functional. Quick and convenient beach access! We were happy.

“Because of their size, parents may be difficult to discipline properly.”  ~P.J. O’Rourke

As we soaked up the sun, we watched almost every child that passed by, stop, point and inevitably try the steps out. One very enthusiastic little girl climbed them no less than twenty times. Climb. Jump down. Climb. Jump down.  Several passers by stopped to tell us how awesome our steps were. It was very entertaining. It was a good day. Then it happened. We were in the water enjoying the waves when I looked back to see two adults and two children standing on the beach at our steps. No worries. Then, as I watched a little longer I noticed the little boy stomping up the steps (sand steps mind you – can you say collapse?) and then jumping around the the sand wall directly in front of our chairs. What? Seriously? So I waded out of the water, smiled at the mom and climbed the steps. As I did, I said casually “we built these this morning so we could get up and down to the beach without having to walk so far” and proceeded to my chair to grab a drink. The kids, undaunted by my arrival and undisciplined by their parents, continued to run, stomp, and jump in front of me. Clearly, this family was in the wrong BUT here’s where it starts to get fuzzy.

“Behaviors are a choice. Feelings are sometimes out of our control. Behavior has to do with choices.” ~Randall Terry

I am genetically prone to “getting my feathers ruffled” and without naming names, let’s just say there are several very close family members who are subject to road rage, holding a grudge, judging your motives and confrontation. I can’t stand this behavior and fight it every step of the way. I work very hard to keep my ego and temper in check but sometimes…

“The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.” ~Benjamin Spock

So what grown up way did I handle the situation? I got up from my chair and sat down on the sand steps. Mom looked. Dad looked. Nothing was said. And so the kids continued bulldozing around me. Yes, this was a little irritating.

“Communication is about being effective, not always about being proper.” ~Bo Bennett

Then I had a light bulb moment.  My friend had a pack of cigarettes in the beach bag. I stood up, grabbed the cigarettes, fired one up and plopped back down on the sand steps. As the little girl circled back around to push past me, I smiled and said, “watch out sweetie, I don’t want you to get burned” – this got a reaction from the alleged mom. “Oh my God” she said. She then grabbed her daughter’s arm and yelled at her son to get down and follow her. She looked at me and said some things about it being a beautiful beach and that I was just being ugly. I thanked her and relaxed on my steps watching the waves roll in. Mission accomplished.

“Every time you get angry, you poison your own system.” Alfred A. Montapert

It only took a few minutes before the entire episode sunk in. What did I just do? I wanted to make a point. I wanted them to see that they were wrong. What I had done was given this woman what she needed to act like I was the one in the wrong. Much like the moment when someone cuts you off in traffic then proceeds to flip you off like you did something wrong. As I watched her herd the children down the beach to a spot not too far away, I felt horrible. Not because I felt I was in the wrong, but because I knew I handled it wrong. And as I watched her gather with a crowd of fellow beach goers, I knew she was telling her tale and letting them know about that mean, hateful women who tried to burn her babies with a cigarette. Oy! I went from feeling triumphant to total deflation in 0.2 seconds.

“Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.” ~Oscar Wilde

So I said a little prayer, asked God to forgive me, and considered it a lesson learned. What did I learn? You may be right. You may be justified. You may have been wronged BUT it’s how you react that makes ALL the difference in the world. A hasty reaction on your part can tip the scales. Think before you act.


Melissa Stewart is a serial entrepreneur who has had a “home office” since age 5. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, addicted to coffee and eternally optimistic. Her latest project https://sheownsit.com// is a site committed to empowering women entrepreneurs by offering resources, support and inspiration. @melissaonline

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6 Replies to “Who’s in the wrong here? Hard to tell.”

  1. Nikki

    It’s not easy dealing with situations like that. Just last week I was sitting with my 10yr old nephew and his parents in the waiting room at the hospital. My precious boy was about to have surgery.
    A woman proceeded to tell excruciating details about her child’s surgery in a very loud voice. She used words that made my nephew cringe and built his fear about what was about to happen to him.
    This upset me terribly. I saw red and my first instinct was tell her to shut up and maybe call her out on being insensitive and stupid but I’m proud to say I didn’t.
    I took a breath, counted to ten and practiced what I was going to say in my head before I said it. This does not come naturally to me at all especially where my nephew is concerned.
    I went over to her and very quietly said: “excuse me, you may not realize it but my nephew can hear every word you’re saying. He’s about to go into surgery and if you don’t mind, please lower your voice and spare him the graphic details. He doesn’t need to hear it.” She looked at me with shock and said, “oh, what kind of surgery is he having?” I said, “it doesn’t really matter does it? Please be kind and lower your voice.” And she did.
    I couldn’t believe that came out of me. Visions of my hands around her throat left me and calm was restored. It’s something that may never come naturally to me but I will continue to practice.

    1. admin[ Post Author ]

      Wow! Really admire how you handled the situation. That’s the example I want to set in the future.

  2. Stephanie Martin

    I can totally empathize with you!!! We’ve all had those moments. One thing that helps me is trying to focus on communicating directly as possible, rather than being manipulative. Something in our human nature just makes us react spitefully sometimes? Idk. But you are a good person, we can all tell just from the story … Some people are clueless with respect to consideration for others!

    1. admin[ Post Author ]

      I just wish I’d taken a more direct route that MIGHT of let her know it was her kids that were out of line instead of the passive aggressive route that left her feeling like I was the a$*hole! Lesson learned. Working on my communication skills 🙂

  3. Susie Newday

    That was a really good read and insightful.

    Funny because I was at the beach this week too and had some similar thoughts about kids and so on.

    My question to you is-if that other mother had been a smoker and didn’t think lighting up next to kids was a bad thing but decided to move her kids because of the fear of them getting burnt would you have felt quite as bad?

    How much of our being angry at ourselves comes because we want to be liked and don’t want to be seen as wrong or the bad guys?

    I wrote a post that will be on World Moms Blog this week about being a bad mother. I was at the seaside for one night and day while my 22 year old son was in the hospital getting IV antibiotics. I knew he was okay. I wanted to be with him but I also needed the break. I felt horrible but a good portion of my guilt was because of my beating myself up because I was influenced by what I thought public perception of my actions were.

    Does that make any sense?

    1. admin[ Post Author ]

      You make a good point. I struggle with “what will other people think” issue & “mom guilt” issue too. I have some pretty good conversations with myself and usually sanity prevails but it’s still an ongoing battle. I should have taken the direct route and simply told the mom that I would appreciate it if – instead of the passive aggressive option that left me questioning my actions. Live and learn. It’s a process.

      And like you, I’ve had similar situations with mom guilt. Your day at the beach was the right thing to do. There will always be someone who thinks you’re doing it wrong!

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