Princess Pigtails and I spent the morning at the grocery store. We got started a little later than I had hoped or planned, so of course, as we were loading groceries onto the conveyor at the check out I realized what time it was and that we were due for lunch. I had the internal debate of whether either of us had the patience to wait the 45 minutes to an hour that it would realistically take to get the groceries bagged, loaded into the truck, endured the 20 minutes drive home and unload the plunder. I concluded that I indeed did not have the patience and I wasn't going to put Princess Pigtails in that position. So, after getting everything loaded, we stopped at the favorite lunch destination of kiddos everywhere: "Old McDonald's" as our Princess refers to it.
I must say that our local McD's is not laid out particuliarly well and I'm generally annoyed by the experience when I am the lone adult with the precious toddler. But today, I had what I thought was the good fortune of finding a table in a good location near most everything (a must for me when I may possibly make 16 trips to the napkin dispenser or ketchup during the course of lunch). The bonus was no one else was around, so fewer distractions for Princess Pigtails. It was looking to be a reasonably enjoyable lunch.
Bless you if you are still reading at this point after I have bored with plenty of pointless details, this is where our lunch excursion takes a turn. As we were starting to eat, in comes a group of what I'm assuming were high school boys on their lunch. Of course, where do they choose to sit? Right behind us. Still not a big deal, except now I had to listen to their chatter. Not surprisingly there was talk about dead truck tranmissions, hockey games, etc. But two things happened. One, there was one kid that was obviously not part of the group--in fact it appeared that he had arrived before the others and planned to take his lunch to go, as he was leaving, the big group must've asked him to join them or he invited himself. I'm not sure it matters, as a couple of "the guys" told him where they normally sit and he sat down. Nice gesture? Um, no. I felt horrible for the kid. He chose to stay and eat with the larger group--they never actually spoke to him except to make fun of him or ridicule him about something or another. Teenagers, right? He would've been better off for so many reasons, if he would have just left as he had planned. I silently cheered for him when he got up and left as soon as he was done eating. Seriously, I know teenage girls can be bad, but this was brutal. And at the risk of sounding old and motherly, which I guess I am anyway, the language these boys used left me talking ninety miles an hour to Princess in hopes that she wasn't overhearing any of it, and encouraging her to eat as fast as possible so we could get out of there.
As we were finishing up, gathering our trash and putting our coats on, the group started to thin out but the three boys in the booth directly behind me remained. My stomach was churning with disappointment at the whole group dynamic. Then, I heard what then made my heartache even more. The ring leader was going on and on about how he had held someone, whom I'm assuming was his girlfriend up, in the air by her coat and then thrown her against the wall. There was mention of her falling and sliding across the garage floor when he pulled her out of the vehicle. He was regailing how he had broken her cup holders and smashed her phone. The two boys across the table from him, seemed either unphased or unable to summonize the courage to say something to him. The mind can be twisted and disturbed, especially under the influence of teenage hormones, so perhaps he was embellishing to "impress"--but it really matters very little to me. I was sickened. What I heard made my face burn with pain and anger. I wanted to say something, to "mother" him with some harsh words or perhaps, to find a very large, intimidating being to strike fear in his heart. I was stunned and am ashamed to admit that consequently I said and did nothing, other than to quickly gather up my baby and leave. But perhaps that was the best course of action. I don't know.
I am well aware of the staggering numbers of victims of domestic violence and that abuse knows no boundaries or borders. Admitedly, I tend to be an "ostrich" when it comes to applying facts and figures to real life. But my shock and disbelief was related to the harsh reality that this perpetrator was merely a teenage kid. Someone who had previously mentioned on his way past me to refill his soda that he "hoped" he would graduate. I was stunned that he would "brag" or calousely recall in a public place his abusive behavior of this woman and that his "friends" would say nothing to him. I'm quite certain that this is not the first time he has retold behavior of this type and yet his peers just sat and took it all in.
I spent the drive home in reflection and prayer. Broken and ashamed, I asked the Lord to forgive my inability to "see" these situations and to forgive my sin of stereotyping victims and perpetrators... finally, I prayed feverently that my children will never experience abuse of any nature nor will they tolerate that kind of abuse from peers or friends--that they will have the strength in their convictions to stand up to their peers when they are mistreating those around them.