We took our 3 little kids to the pool today. Canon, the 5 yr old is learning how to do all sorts of fun things like jump off the diving board and slide down "that giant, giant, big blue swirly slide". There is a fun, challenging activity where a person, holding onto a net overhead, attempts to get to the other side of the pool on "lilly pads" which are flotation pads connected to the bottom of the pool by a single chain. My son and I were having a great time until the strangest thing happened. Canon fell off the first lilly pad, so instead of making him go back to the end of the line, I helped him out and put him back where he had just started.
Suddenly, from 20 feet away on the side of the pool I hear, "HOW DOES THAT WORK?!" A teenage girl was shouting at me to make Canon go back to the end of the line.
I was actually being bullied by a teenager. This has not happened to me since, well, since ever!
I lovingly walked Canon back to the end of the line and told him to wait there. I then walked calmly over to the young woman to -ahem- express my heart.
I actually got into a mouth-off with a teenager! I couldn't believe it. I won't share the exact words, but I have to say I was holding my own. I had some real zingers. The Nikki of the distant past would have been so proud. Then when she started talking ungly about my son, the mamma bear came out in full force.
While getting into a pissing match with someone half my age was pretty invigorating, I thought about this strange interaction the entire rest of the night. I told my husband about it and after we had an awkward laugh, we began to pick apart the conversation and discuss the situation like real grown-ups and the nerdy pastors that we are.
I asked, I wonder how I could have handled that in a more pastoral way.
I think about that girl and what it would have been like to meet her under different circumstances. What if she showed up at my church or youth group or campus ministry? I wonder about her family life. I wonder if she acts like a bully so that she can protect herself. I wonder if there is any softness there that could be nurtured. Is there anyone singing her songs of love and trust and goodness and peace? I wonder how she views herself. Does she even see her beauty? What messages has she been given her entire young life? Is she a wounded cat in a corner, having to fight just to survive?
What is my excuse?