I never thought I could feel such hostility towards a bunch a kids as I did the other day when we visited Santa's Village amusement park. There was a Park District group in attendance. The children all wore green shirts. The place was pretty empty, so the lines were moving fairly quickly.
Until the Green Shirts descended.
Over and over, a Green Shirt would cut in line and then turn to convince other Green Shirts to join him.
The first couple of times, I gave the kids a pass.
They had such sweet innocent faces, perhaps they were just confused over line etiquette? I was with Joey while my husband took the older boys on scarier rides. But soon, it became apparent that I was on my way to a state of righteous indignation. With each unchecked line transgression, the whole pack of Green Shirts felt emboldened to continue their reign of terror on the unsuspecting line-abiding parents of Santa's Village. By the time I met up with Joe, my blood was boiling.
Joe, too, had noticed the unruly Green Shirts but figured he just had the misfortune of standing behind an isolated few bad apples. Once he realized it was an actual epidemic of cheating little 8-year-olds, we hatched our plan. We would again go "southside" (but without the normal swearing).
As we set off for the second half of the day, Joe and I were committed to calling out these kids on their unacceptable behavior. Every time they tried to cut, we would yell:
CUTTERS! WE'VE GOT CUTTERS HERE!
CHEATER! I KNOW YOUR MOTHER AND SHE'S GOING TO HEAR ABOUT THIS!
FOR SHAME! WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
Naturally, the Green Shirt chaperones looked at us as though we'd lost our marbles (which was not an unfair assumption). Yet where was the guidance? Where was the direction from adult chaperones who should know better? The kids all looked around at each other like we were yelling at someone else. This is where my husband is great:
No...I'm talking to YOU. In the GREEN SHIRT. Don't think you're getting away with anything today. It AIN'T happening.
Normally, I cringe when Joe drops an "ain't," but it did just gave him that little extra-scary demeanor and street cred needed to shut down the grammar school crowd.
I'm still thinking about writing a letter to the suburban Park District responsible for allowing such behavior to go on unabated, but I suppose I can't be sure that my own children haven't acted this horribly outside my presence.
This fear lead to an hour-long lecture on the ride home about how I expect them to behave when I'm not around. I threw God, Santa Claus, and the ghosts of their dead grandparents into the mix as far as people who will be monitoring their behavior at all times.
Then I got more serious. I started to worry about peer influences in the future. So many Green Shirts obviously felt uncomfortable and hesitant to cut in line, but they were egged on by less virtuous friends. I went into a long speech about how the measure of person is based not in how he behaves in the presence of moral character, but rather how he acts in the absence of such.
The kids grew confused by my diatribe, and kept insisting that they didn't cut. Then they asked what kind of "presents" this Moral Character guy has. Like a Nintendo DS?
By the time we pulled into the driveway, the boys asked to never go to Santa's Village again.
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