It is an emotion that never fails to jump out and hit me. A fiery dart, a subsonic shock wave, a boulder breaking the placidity of my emotional pond. The anger doesn't even need to be directly pointed towards me for it to sock me in the gut.
At the McDonald's play scape today, Xander encountered a miniature bully. The kid came out of the slide behind him, and shoved him in the back. Hard.
Xander, my tough little guy, turned right around and said fiercely, "Don't do that to me!" The kid shoved him again, this time on his chest with both hands. Xander yelled, "NO!"
Seeing the boy take yet another step towards my son, I hurried over. Locking eyes with both boys, I said firmly, "You guys need to play nice," and led Xander to another area of the play scape. Ten minutes later, the kid had muscled his way in on a wheel Xander was playing with, using his body to shove Xander out of the way. I intervened again, this time telling him to just not play near the boy.
My son did what I said ... for a while. The bully occupied himself with pulling on the foot of a little girl who was trying to climb up some stairs in a corner. I was so busy watching the kid that I didn't notice Xander, inching his way close, until he was standing just on the other side of the bully, some wire mesh between them. When the boy looked up, Xander pointed his finger at him from behind the screen. His bottom lip was pursed, eyebrows pulled together in a fierce little outcropping, blue eyes slitted. I knew this look. This look meant, "You're not gonna take another inch from me." It was Xander's 'line in the sand' look. And the other boy took notice.
He let go of the little girl, came around the screen to face my son, and spat at him. Xander kept glaring, pointing his finger, and then gave a little boy growl. The boy spit again. I watched, wondering when to step in. Xander was backed into the little corner behind the screen, with the boy blocking his way out. Xander took a step forwards. In a quick movement, the other boy raised his leg and karate kicked him in the stomach. Stumbling back against the wall, Xander pulled himself together and lunged at the boy.
That's when auto pilot kicked in. I lunged toward both of the boys. Before I knew it, I had scooped Xander up in my arms, and found the other boy's mom sitting with her friends at a back table.
"Your boy is hitting and kicking my son," I blurted, keeping desperate hands on the reins of my bucking, adrenaline charged inner mama bear. Without even waiting for a response, I turned on my heel and hightailed it back to my seat. It was so unlike me to say anything (instead of running, like I normally do), that I had shocked myself back into control.
Over the divider between play area and tables, I saw the mother carrying her struggling son towards the bathroom. A split second later, the anger hit me. It radiated like shock waves, as if the mother had sent a radio broadcast from her head, "Heat! Anger! Fear!" The very room grew darker, heavier, muted under the dull, throbbing, ringing roar of rage. Three long strides got her to the bathroom, and yanking the door open, she and her son disappeared inside. The door slammed shut like an exclamation point. Locking us out. Locking them in.
And as a stillness settled over us like the eye of a storm, my heart twanged in regretful self-doubt. Should I have told her? Did I cause that?