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There were many transitions in our lives over the last ten-plus years. This first column comes from very early in our time on Oahu. Let’s just say we weren’t finding the island particularly welcoming at the moment…it got better.
New Jersey Attitude: 1
Aloha Spirit: 0
Well, you can take the guy out of Jersey…Now, before you get too excited, it’s not that big a deal, but we had a little incident at the Honolulu Library today. We stopped by to have the kids pick a few DVD’s and maybe visit the kid’s area before taking everyone home for dinner. The boy decided that this would be an appropriate time for a tantrum and let a spectacular one fly. Well, that set off the baby, and we made a direct line for the exit.
The wife took the boy out, screaming the entire way, and left ahead of me, while I walked down with the girls. As I moved towards the exit, the fun began: an older gentleman took the moment to loudly complain to the security guard about my kid. He of course didn’t know that I was his father and went on for a minute before I was faced with a choice.
Do I embrace the Aloha spirit and just let it go? Or, do I call this guy out?
Please keep in mind that for the most part, we have not felt overly welcome in many places since we arrived, but until that moment, the public library had been one of them.
Well, as I said, you can take me outta Jersey, but I wasn’t about to let this one go.
As I approached, I asked him, very politely, if I could help him with something, as that was my kid he was talking about. He continued his rant about how ‘you see it more and more these days…” to which I replied “see what?” He faltered there, so I said “the kid had a tantrum, we left. Why don’t you pass judgment on someone else?” I didn’t raise my voice or swear (the girls were with me, so I was very appropriate…) He stammered a bit more about it being a library, to which I replied, “Are you a parent?” His reply of, “I most certainly am” I’ll admit surprised me, but I went with it, asking “Well, didn’t your children ever throw a tantrum?” He assured me that they had but that he “Never put my children in socially unacceptable situations, and we handled things.”
Keep in mind, we are in a public library, with an extensive children’s section.
At this point, the librarian came over, and thanked the gentleman for his concern, but that she thought we had handled it fine. He left in a huff.
I thanked the librarian, and to be honest, I’m glad she came over, as I was really irritated by his last comment. I’ve absolutely had it with some of the looks and comments I get from people, like the lady in the supermarket that rolled her eyes at us shopping, saying “three kids that young at the same time, what are they thinking?” Or even better, the stranger at the Zoo the other day that asked me, after I had told her that yes; the three-year-olds are twins, if the baby was planned after we already had twins. Or the people that ask “Did you want so many?” Or “did you take drugs or something?” Or “Did she deliver vaginally?”
These are strangers, and I digress, but let’s allow the rant to continue: the cowardly lady downstairs in our apartment building, who again complained to the manager about us, rather than call me and talk to me directly, and yes, I gave the front desk my number to give to her. Just be a human being and talk to us if there’s a problem. I’d have bought the lady headphones or something or adjusted their schedules if it meant being a better neighbor, but she won’t give us that chance.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the first person to question a parent allowing a child to just go off without taking action. I can assure you that neither I nor the wife simply let them go off-we either settle them or remove them from the situation. I know, better than anyone, how irritating it can be when they go off, but I am not about to lock them in a room and wait for them to go to school. We have only been here 23 days, we are cramped in a two-bedroom apartment until our house is ready, and we are all adjusting as best we can. All things considered, the kids are doing very well, and as I spend more time with them then anyone these days, I feel quite qualified to judge that.
That said, I understand that people don’t know us or our situation, and just react how they react. But I think it took a lot of nerve for this guy at the library to call me out as a parent because my kid threw a tantrum. It happens. He’s three. We left. Get over it, dude. I’m supposed to not take them anywhere because he’s three?
Maybe I should have let it go, but I couldn’t let this guy badmouth my kid right in front of me. I know how irritating it can be to hear a kid scream (trust me, I know), especially in a quiet place like a library, which is why we left immediately. I could see if we were letting it go on and on and not doing anything about it. The kid went off-we left. End of problem.
So, the moral of the story is that I might be in Hawaii, but there’s plenty of Jersey in me. I may not be the world’s best dad, but I won’t accept the judgment of that dude.
After all, that same boy, later that same evening, participated in the following exchange with me during bath time. We were talking about turtles, and I’ve been trying to teach them some words in Hawaiian, including Honu, which is Hawaiian for turtle. His sister has really embraced it, but he’s been less interested in Hawaiian words, except for Ohana.
Me: “So, Boyo, how do you say ‘turtle’ in Hawaiian?”
He thought for a moment and says, matter of factly:
“Turtle in Hawaiian.”
And then he smirked. He knew it was funny. He is definitely my kid.
And right or wrong, I’m always going to stand up for them.