There probably comes a time in every mother’s life when she has to ask herself this pivotal question,
“Is it really worth me going to jail over punching a nasty, miserable, liver spotted, cantankerous old lady in the face or should I take the higher road and move on?”
Last night I had my moment.
As a surprise Christmas gift, my friend bought tickets for the two of us and my daughter to see the theater production of Matilda. Kylah is seven years old. She is very familiar with the story of Matilda. It has always been one of my favorites and we have read the book together. She has seen the movie multiple times and can quote directly from it if necessary in applicable situations. She has never been to an actual musical theater performance before and it was a big deal for her. When we arrived at the theater she was smiling and talking a mile a minute. The energy and excitement she was feeling was pouring out of her and it was contagious. There were little kids all around us dressed up like Matilda, people were singing and jumping around. The whole experience felt surreal and magical.
Kylah marveled at the beauty of Proctors, the venue where the production was being shown. She pointed out all of the things I was hoping she would notice like the stage and the props and the beauty of the building itself. As the lights dimmed she excitedly squeezed my hand and said, “It’s starting!”
Then she started to cough.
She has had a cold all week. No fever, no runny nose, no truly alarming symptoms but the cough has persisted. The coughing wasn’t too disruptive initially. After all,this is a children’s musical theater production. There were kids giggling and talking and eating all around us. I gave her a cough drop and settled in, ecstatic to lose myself in the world of Roald Dahl for the next 2 hours and reacquaint myself with one of the most beloved children’s literary uprisings of all time.
For any of you not familiar with the story of Matilda, she is a brilliant little girl born into an uncaring and abusive environment. She saves herself through her love of books and eventually uses her intelligence and inner moral compass to help fight for the rights of other innocent children that are being abused by the cruel, belittling and horrendous adults in their lives.
Kylah’s cough got worse. I had given her cough medicine right before we left the house but for whatever reason the cough decided that this was the point in time it was going to come back with the ferocity of pissed off lion. Our seats were pretty far back and we were not surrounded by a packed in audience. We actually had the entire row to ourselves and nobody was sitting in front of us. Directly behind us though, there was a trio of elderly theater goers. My soon to be nemesis was about to show her true Miss Trunchbull colors.
It started innocently enough.
A passive aggressive comment loud enough to be heard about my daughter’s cough being too loud.
I get it.
Honestly, I do. Kylah could not help that she was coughing any more than Matilda can help being a genius but I do understand that it is disruptive. Maybe not as disruptive as a loud, grouchy old lady but I understand. I whispered to Kylah to try to cough into her sleeve instead of her hand to try to muffle the sound a bit and gave her thumbs up. She was so entranced by the show she wasn’t aware that anything else was going on which I am thankful for.
The cough came and went but mostly stayed for the first half hour of the musical. I asked her if she wanted some water and she told me yes but she didn’t want me to leave because she knows how much I love Matilda and she didn’t want me to miss any of it. I tried not to cry as I got up to get her some water anyways, assuring her that it would be okay. As I stood up to get the water the “lady” made a snide remark about leaving children home when they are sick. I ignored her because I’m trying to be the kind of person who forgives and is patient and understanding.
I also didn’t want to feed into unnecessary old lady drama. Maybe she had a reason for being so mean spirited. I can’t pretend to know what makes other people tick and most people can somehow justify their behavior or their behavior can in fact be justifiable. I didn’t have the time or energy to be her therapist and figure any of that out though. I was just trying to enjoy a very rare evening out with my friend, my daughter and Roald Dahl.
I came back with the water and tried again to immerse myself in the show.
Kylah’s cough had dwindled but the woman was still making comments. Loud enough so that my friend suggested we switch seats. Kylah has now caught on to the fact that this random lady is mad at her over something she cannot control and is feeling self-conscious. Every time she coughed (which had lessened dramatically) she put her head down. She curled into a ball and had started watching the show through the veil of hair she was purposely hiding underneath. A show she was so excited to see she has been previously almost floating through the air with joy.
I had a moment.
I stood up.
I went to that place.
I can and do sometimes go there.
Typically I go there if I feel that any child is being treated unfairly but if my own child is being threatened I have a very specific type of rage that can be unleashed. I can very quickly go from patient, accommodating and happy mom to I’m going to tear your face off and throw it across this theater and my daughter’s cough is going to be the least of your worries mom. I’m sure a lot of the rage stems from my own childhood and the feelings I’m still trying to work through. Feelings of not being listened to or of being made to feel ashamed when I had done nothing wrong. I’m a bit over protective because of my past experiences which can be a blessing and a curse, but at least I’m aware of my faults.
I sat back down and attempted to gather myself, knowing full well that if I said something it wasn’t going to be pretty.
Kylah has now reached her threshold of what she can tolerate while knowing her cough is making people take notice of her and she wants to leave. She is a very intuitive and emotional child. She couldn’t concentrate on what was supposed to be something special for her due to the complete ignorance of one person. As we walked by the lady said,
“It’s about time. She should have gone home a long time ago.”
I do just want to assure everyone that I would never actually physically assault anyone, least of all a menacing, little old lady. No matter how much she may have deserved it.
I could have easily Embarrassed her for her deplorable behavior. Made her cringe. Pointed out that she was being rude purposely while my daughter was coughing due to circumstances beyond her control. I could have Accidentally spit my own cough drop on her or lap as we were exiting. I could have and wanted to unleash the side of me that sometimes needs to be set free.
Kylah’s small hand tightly grasped in mine pulled me forward.
We walked in silence down the beautifully carpeted stairs. Her cough was still coming and going. I was fighting back a mixture of unspoken rage and tears and trying to work my brain around how something so great and special and rare for us could fall apart so quickly.
When we reached the bottom of the steps Kylah said,
“We can sit here.”
I didn’t stop to question if we could or not. It was the middle of the show and I’m pretty sure we were not allowed to be sitting on the stairs, blocking a fire exit and sitting so closely to the sound booth. The usher never said a word.
He just nodded at us and smiled.
She crawled into my lap and we watched the rest of the musical sitting together in the stairwell. We could hear the music and see the actors and she could cough all she needed to.
When the musical was coming to an end, there is a scene in which the children revolt against Miss Trunchball, their evil headmistress. They stand up to her and fight for what they know is right. They use their voices and their power to ultimately scare her away forever, freeing themselves from their oppressive, controlling environment and the abuser who created it. As the song ended, Kylah jumped up out of my lap and cheered, clapping happily.
That song and every lyric written within in it felt like a personal victory. If I had let my rage overpower me, Kylah would have been embarrassed by my words and actions. Even though they were seemingly justified. I would have gone directly to that woman’s level and our entire night could have been ruined. Instead because of a lot of self control, a little divine intervention and a child guiding my way, our night was saved.
On the ride home the three of us made old lady jokes and cranked the Matilda soundtrack as loud as it could go, singing along as we drove. Revolting Children was our agreed upon new theme song.
Our night was a perfect again.
Unfortunately, the world is full of people like Miss Trunchball.
Thankfully, it has its fair share of Matilda’s too…