My partner and I were skating tonight at our local rink. There weren't too many people there, going counter-clockwise, a blend of abilities from total newbs right up to my guy's mad skills. Three 12-or-so-year-old girls were there too - super strong skaters - messing around on the ice. I loved watching them play and skate BUT they weren't being terribly mindful of others around them. We spoke to them three times about watching out for others, and I almost got hit in the face with a glove that they were playing with. Finally, as I turned the corner at the end of the rink - cutting my circle short because they were playing there - one of them turned quickly and crossed my path. I stopped hard to avoid crashing into her, tripped on my pick and went down. Fortunately I was okay (we skated with a friend a couple of years ago to whom the same thing happened and she broke her leg), but I was pretty frustrated and spoke sharply to her. She gave me a very defensive "sorry!", but didn't ask if I was okay, didn't take any responsibility, and when I called her on her flippant apology she said, "You can't put this all on me!"
Her mom was on the sidelines, and the girls left the ice after the near collision. Mom didn't ask if I was okay either. I went around a few more times, and then went into the change room to try and discuss it more calmly. I sat down on the bench across from the girls and told them how impressed I was with their skating. I had fun watching them play and was happy to see this was how they spend their Saturday nights. And that they have a responsibility - being such strong skaters - to look out for others who weren't as capable. The girl who was involved told me, "I said I was sorry!" That's a real pet peeve, and something I talk to my kids about all the time - don't say you're sorry unless you mean it. There's got to be some humility there and willingness to change, especially since we had spoken to them three times. At that point, the mom spoke up (to her credit, she had kept quiet the whole time) and said she saw what had happened - I had tripped on my pick - her daughter said she was sorry, and it was her job to parent her kid, not mine. If I'm a weaker skater, it's my responsibility to keep out of the way ... I didn't respond that I tripped on my pick and fell to avoid crashing into a kid half my size and hurting her! I sighed and went back to the rink, and they left shortly - the girl looking back at me as they walked away.
I tried to create a positive exchange. I was upset when I fell, but made an effort to try again calmly. To take advantage of a teachable moment. I know it's not my place to parent other people's kids (and I would have come to my kids' defence too), but it IS my place as an adult in society to try to set an example to others - isn't it? I tried to be kind but firm, and I feel like it backfired. I was in tears after.
I'm not sure what I should have done differently. I'm struggling to see my role. I want to be humble too, and I acknowledge that she's a child ... which was kind of my point. I don't back down in the world when people treat me poorly ... my partner could tell tons of tales of me engaging in confrontation and standing up for myself when he'd rather avoid the conflict. This was different. I don't worry too much about getting into it with adults. But kids ... there's an opportunity there. Maybe I overstepped. Maybe I should have let it go. Maybe I could have kept my cool a bit more. I'm not sure. I feel sad about how it went down (no pun intended).
We never know what other people are carrying. We had an encounter with a rude teenage grocery store clerk when we were in Vancouver in December; we were telling about it at a party that night and learned from someone who knew him that this kid had had a very tough year and was coping with some pretty tricky stuff, including the death of a friend to an overdose. Not an excuse to be rude, but always my responsibility to be kind. I wrote him a card saying something along those lines and had a friend take it in to him - apparently he got teary and said he hadn't received anything like that in five years; that it gave him hope. I guess the lesson for me is to continue to find a way to always be kind ... without being a doormat? Tricky balance.