Don’t Get Mad, Get Civil

Zo’s seatbelt got stuck, and that’s when the trouble started.

We pull up every morning to the line in front of her school. One way in, one way out. I throw the car into [P]ark, and I wait for her to unbuckle, grab her things, open the door, and get out. I am not allowed (according to copious signage in multiple languages) to get out of the car and help her.

But her seatbelt buckle got stuck, and from the back of our four-door sedan I hear, “Mama, help?”

So I unbuckled and with my shortie short lady arms I managed to wrangle her out of her booster seat. After that she truly is on her own, getting her unicorn backpack, her unicorn lunchbox, Elsa-from-Frozen jacket, and an adult-sized Nissan Altima door open. Thwew. I don’t know how she does it. I admire her for it every day.

I admire her for it. The mom sitting behind us in the hulking black truck — does not.

HONK!

Zo started as I said, “Ignore her, just go. Go. Go.” And off she went, sprinting for class, even though she wasn’t late. I cast a glance at the truck, and then I saw her. I saw the Other Mom.

Other Mom with a ponytail so tight I could hear the hair follicles screaming.

Other Mom shaking her head in clear disgust at me.

How dare your five-year-old have a problem with her seatbelt, that headshake seemed to say. My baby sprung forth from my womb as a fully-formed eight-year-old who could pack her own lunch, drive stick, and denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

The car door shut, and with my own seatbelt back on, I pulled forward. Other Mom pulled behind me, still doing that little headshake, mouth a thin line of disapproval, and I….

Drove the very clearly posted 25 MPH speed limit.

The mouth thinned more.

I got to an intersection. I stopped. I cautiously looked at all three points, making a show of craning my head around.

I took four very slow. Very deep breaths.

(I mean, you gotta make sure those walkways are clear, this close to an elementary school.)

Her mouth had practically vanished by now. I wanted to make sure she’d be mute by the time I was done with her.

Finally we turned onto the service road, and where it split, she roared past me on the left. I’m guessing if I’d bothered to look I would have spied a one-fingered howdy. And I’m guessing if I’d been younger, I’d have cheerfully returned it.

But I dunno, sometimes when people are having a bad day like Other Mom clearly was, the best response is just to follow the rules and be civil.