I must tell you that tomorrow I start a new round of Weight Watchers. For like the twenty third time. And so today, I went all out. Two bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast. A little thrift store shopping with my nephew Cameron. Then we had a late lunch. Nizza Pizza is a weird little pizza joint in Arlington that makes up for what it lacks in cleanliness and class by serving deliciously greasy New York style pizza. And for $3.95, I can have two enormous slices of pizza and a drink for lunch, as long as I make it in before 4 p.m. I sponged off most of the pizza grease with a napkin, and I happily ate my pizza, knowing that come the stroke of midnight, my pizza eating days are over. As Cameron and I were eating, we noticed a woman come in and order. She paid for her food and went to sit by the window, carefully lifting the bamboo blinds as she sat. Nizza Pizza has windows all around two and a half sides of the building, and in this miserable triple digit heat, I feel certain that their reasons for keeping all of the blinds down were good ones. The young cashier looked annoyed, and a few minutes later, he walked over to the woman and pulled the blinds back down to their closed position.
I don't know what he said, or if he said anything. I don't know if he asked politely or just rudely changed them back. But what I am a witness to is the woman's reaction. She stood up, slammed her hands down on the table, and demanded a refund for her meal. She said was leaving and she would never be back. The cashier led her back to the register, and he went to hand her the money. She refused to take it from his hand and insisted that he place it down on the counter. He placed it on the counter, and then she proceeded to pick up the coins and throw them at him. Oh yes. She was a grown woman, and she threw coins at another person. A kid, basically. Then she started in.
Give me the name of your manager. Silence
I will find out who your manager is. Silence
Who is your manager? Silence
Then, addressing other employees (who pretended to not speak English)
What's the name of your manager? More silence and mumbled Spanish
The cashier asks the woman to leave
And back to the cashier. (The following is a basic summary. Many of these things were repeated.)
I will find out and you will be fired. You threw that money at me. (And then she remembers that he clearly didn't.) It's my word against yours. You threw it at me. All you had to do was hand it to me nicely. You wanna call the cops? Go ahead. I will wait while you call the cops. I will tell them what you did to me. Go ahead. Pick up the phone and call. I am trespassing right now. Just call them.
And then she waited.
This woman was not leaving. She was uncontrollably angry and for what? Because a 20-year-old kid wanted the blinds closed and she wanted them open? When I left, this woman was standing at the counter, still insisting that the police be called, while the clueless kid kept repeating "Have a nice day, ma'am", as if this farewell would cause her to believe that she actually was leaving.
As we walked out, I looked at my nine-year-old nephew Cameron and we kind of laughed to ourselves at the outrageous behavior we had just seen. But what is less funny is that about ten minutes before the woman came in, I had a little talk with Cameron about a few of my ridiculous outbursts from years before.
I remember one particular day several years back when I was still mothering my sister's children, I put them all down for a nap. Nap time on the weekends was my salvation. I worked full-time, and I had four kids. I was almost always exhausted. And during this particular time, I was parenting alone. Cameron was the first child out of bed in the mornings and he rarely took a decent nap. During nap time, he defaulted to whining or playing, both of which kept his brothers from taking a nap. And on this particular day, I had had enough. I have always believed that if you want to spank a child, that is certainly the time that you shouldn't. And I wanted to spank him. I wanted him to know that I was mad. And I did. I remember losing control of my own voice to the point that I didn't even recognize the sound of it. I have no idea what I screamed as I spanked him, but it wasn't nice. When I put him back into the bed (not carefully or lovingly, mind you), I walked out of the room and I broke down. I had scared him. I had scared his brothers. And I felt terrible. Not like the twinge of guilt that you feel that you quickly forget. The kind that sticks around. The kind that makes you feel like you are a terrible parent. The kind that won't let you forget the fear in a child's face.
Recently our church has dedicated our Sunday nights to watching a video series on Anger. And even though I am not a parent now, and my patience isn't tested like it has been in the past, I saw myself in so much of what has been taught. The preacher talked about the damage that anger does in families. The fear and rebellion it can cause in children. It convicted me about the times that I had been angry with my husband or my sister and had taken it out on my nephews because they were the only ones around. Or the time that the oldest was twirling a plastic bag (containing an open ketchup container) around his head like a lasso, slinging ketchup all around the inside of our minivan. I was so angry. It was a typical kid thing to do, and I responded with intense anger. Anger causes us to say things we would never dream of saying. We do things we would never think of doing without it. Sometimes we know what we are doing and saying is wrong, and even sometimes ridiculous, and we just can't seem to stop ourselves. And then comes the regret. Oh my, the regret.
I remember apologizing to the kids back then when I would lose my temper. I tried to make a habit of going back to them and admitting my fault and asking for forgiveness, not just because it was the right thing for me to do, but also so they could see the example. But today Cameron is nine, and I am concerned that he might remember the outbursts and not so much the apologies. And so today, as we sat at lunch, I told him that I was sorry for those times. And like a nine year old, he shrugged and kept on talking about Nerf guns and Wii games. I took it as a sign that I have been forgiven.
I have a lot of work to do. My round of practice parenting (which most people don't get) revealed a level of anger that I didn't know I had. I will eventually have babies of my own, and my prayer is have perfected James 1:19 by the time they enter the world. And since practice makes perfect, I will practice. I will practice with my husband. And my siblings. And the rowdy kids I teach every Sunday. And the people who never, ever yield at the off ramp at 360 and Mayfield Road, even though there are signs telling them that they have to. Yes, I need the practice. My goodness how I need it. Quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to anger.
So tomorrow begins a new day. Another chance to make right choices. Another chance to practice patience. Another chance to count points and eat right. I am thankful for tomorrows. And forgiveness. And for nephews. And for pizza. I won't be having any, but you can. In fact, feel free to. Enjoy it for me. And for goodness' sake, if you visit Nizza Pizza in Arlington, would you please leave the blinds alone?