Friday, July 27, 2012

Being a Victim & It's Effects on Me

As a parent have you ever been victimized, harassed, or witnessed a situation full of injustice? If you've read my previous experience with Delta, then you know this has happened to be before. But recently, I was a victim of verbal abuse and I am still affected a week later.  Let me tell you what happened and the insight I have gained from it.  If you've been victimized, I would be interested in hearing how it has affected you to.  Remember, we are all in this together to support each other.

Last Friday, our family was visiting my in-laws in Lafayette, Indiana.  My mother-in-law's birthday was the previous day, so when we arrived, we wanted to take her out to a nice lunch.  We picked Lafayette Brewing Company which is located in Lafayette's cute little downtown area, full of neat artsy shops, bakeries, and a few restaurants.  Well, we had a great time and my only complaint was that it took a surprisingly long time to receive our food.  As a result, my kids had the opportunity to drink an abundance of pink lemonade (sound familiar mamas?).

After lunch was done, we all left the restaurant to head to our cars (gma & gpa in their own).  Brian (s.o.) went ahead with Rita Clare and I walked with Tyler (whose pace is significantly slower than his 4 y.o. sister).  I carried our leftover box and both the pink lemonades (which in hindsight should have been left behind in the restaurant).  I thought about combining the cups for efficiency for carrying them to the car.  But then I remembered previous fits and complaints that occurred when each person didn't have the cup they were given at the restaurant (you know, those plastic kid's cups with the unusual designs). Anyhow in a rush, I ended up grabbing all of these items while walking with Tyler to the car.

Well, as I've explained in a previous post, my son is potty training. As we are walking on the sidewalk to head to the car (a few shops down from the restaurant), Tyler exclaims, "I need to pee!".  Thinking fast, I usher him into the first open restaurant to see if we can quickly use the facilities for our "emergency".  It's a local place called the Lafayette Dog Cafe.  It's a place I secretly would love to leisurely eat (alone) and enjoy supporting a local business offering local foods while drinking a glass of wine.  I make a mental note that I'd like to come back sometime.

Tyler is holding himself and we quickly walk to the back of the restaurant where the cashier's table is located beside the door to the restroom.  I tell Tyler to wait a minute, so we can ask if we can use their restroom.  But nobody comes out of the kitchen.  Now, I'm thinking fast about what to do and think that they'd probably prefer us to use the restroom instead of having an accident in the middle of their floor.  Looking around the room, which was empty besides 2 people dining together, I set down my leftovers on the side table closest to the restroom door, so the workers know we are in the restroom (I leave my purse too).

If you've gone through potty training, you know it is a process in the restroom.  Setting Tyler up in the right position, having him be able to flush, convincing him the merit of washing his hands and then propping him up to do it himself, having him help open the heavy door, etc.  It's an ordeal.  But we leave the restroom as neat and clean as the little instructions say in the bathroom (please wipe around the sink so no drips are present), and head out to thank them for letting us use their restroom.

As soon as we come back into the restroom, we are greeted by the owner.  He's a tall man about 60 in age with his hands on his hips.  Before he has a chance to say anything, I explain our circumstances and how I tried to wait for someone to come out of the kitchen but couldn't wait any longer....yadda yadda.  He proceeds to ask me if I know what it must be like to be a business owner. Actually I do, I tell him.  Then he asks me how I would feel if someone came into my restaurant and brought in leftovers of a competitor and put them on my table.  Then without being a customer, using my restroom.  As this point, his voice is getting more aggressive and he stance seems to tower over me.  I replied (with my son standing next to me) that I might be frustrated at first but then would understand and empathize with this person because of their situation (i.e. potty training and urgency of the matter).  I apologized and he replied in a hostile tone "GET. OUT!" He swooped us out of the restaurant and closed the door on our backs.

I.was.stunned. Did this really just happen?  Was this my fault?  Shaking, I carried Tyler to the car (which Brian had pulled up because he had been waiting for me).  My body was in fight or flight with my heart pounding. At first I thought to myself, how can someone get SO worked up and act so hostile to a potential customer over something so small?  Do people actually live like this everyday full of anger and aggression?  We are supposed to be working together to understand each other.  After a couple minutes, I told Brian what happened.

As a local business, I expect them to be more understanding and excel more in customer service.  I mean, that is one of my favorite aspects of a local business.  But as my husband has pointed out, not all local businesses are created equal.  It's sad but true.

Well, a few minutes in the car rolled by and I could tell I need a good cry over the situation.  Instead, I reacted to my kids demanding their pink lemonade that I had brought into the car.  I told them that we were saving them for later when we were having cake for grandma's birthday.  No dice.  They whined and complained and my energy bursted out as anger instead of hurt.  I exploded at my daughter and told her that the lemonade was gone now.  I barked at Brian to pull the car over and then threw her cup of lemonade in the trash (I share now with my head down in shame).  Of course, she is crying now and now I'm crying.  And I can tell this is directly related to the trauma I was feeling from being victimized by the owner.  Now I have hurt, anger, and guilt.  Brian told me to take a breather and to let him take care of the kids.  I felt better after a few minutes of calming myself down and then sharing the story again with a few other people.

It's amazing how this experience has still affected me.  With the Chickfila news swirling around, I'm feeling usually hostile (something I haven't felt in a long time) that some company that we had been supporting is supporting organizations that breed more hatred and intolerance with their profits.  I can tell that I'm still needing to work through my experience and heal.  Because getting angry with Chickfila and feeling resentful isn't my style.  And I honestly haven't done all my research on the issue and already want to bust out the bazookas on them.  What's up with that?

So, I apologize if I upset people by posting on our wall about Chickfila. As a business owner, I try to make political issues neutral to Ecological Babies.  We can all believe different things and my goal isn't to persuade you a certain way.  In fact, I love dialog and understanding all perspectives.  I believe we can all learn from each other and can benefit from having differing opinions. At my core, I believe in respecting everyone no matter who they are or their life choices.  Even if I disagree or have been victimized by them, I still believe it's necessary.   Embrace diversity!  As moms, we all parent differently. I think we are just trying to do the best we can for our children in a way that works for us.  

Peace with sincerity,


Jen Starks, Owner


Seminole Sitters, LLC said...

Jen, your honesty and transparency is definitely going to go a long way toward healing - and probably encourage others to do the same!
Your final statements especially resonate with me, and I think are important in the context of what you experienced.

I don't know if the owner of Lafayette Dog Company votes or believes similarly to me or not - but I wouldn't patronize his business if that's how he treats the people who walk through his door.
I know Seminole Sitters does business with many locally who I don't personally see eye-to-eye with when it comes to some issues -- but we're on the same page when it comes to treating our customers right (whether they're my customer or I'm theirs).

Rita Clare and Tyler may not yet be able to understand the complexities of emotions, reactions, and internal struggle - and none of us will ever be perfect parents - but following up with them to apologize is always brave and right. They'll learn from your example, and know what to do when they're adults and they find they've spoken rashly.

I hope the owner does the same for you. I hope he sees this and apologizes - not because his patronage is threatened, but because it's right. But if he doesn't, I've learned that sometimes I have to come to a place where I'm willing to "absorb the loss" and emotionally free people who've wronged me from any "debt" - that the offender doesn't even owe me an apology - because I can only carry so much. It's not easy to let things "roll off" me sometimes, but I think people who "live...everyday full of anger and aggression" have never learned to let go of the hurt they've received.

The owner of Lafayette Dog Cafe - if this is a consistent behavior for him - will see it impact not only his bottom line, but sadly his personal life, too. Wish him change, but don't bother heading back to the restaurant to see if he has.

And for you - you're a good mom, and you're a good business owner. Perfection isn't possible in this lifetime, but thank God we can learn from others' behavior and impart a higher standard to our kids. You already are. <3

MermaidLilli said...

Seminole Sitters said it beautifully.

Kristen said...

So much to say here. First of all Jen I am sorry you were treated this way. You are an extremely kind and diplomatic person, so I think it takes a real jerk to treat you that way.

Also don't beat yourself up for not always living up to the ideals of gentle parenting. We have all been there.

Finally, after reading your description of the two restaurants I kind of wonder why the owner of the Lafayette Dog Company feels so threatened by the Lafayette Brewing Company. It sounds like his restaurant caters more to an adult crowd while the Lafayette Brewing Company must be more family friendly if you would take your kids there. We have restaurants that we reserve for date nights (I love little restaurants that serve local food) and others that we go to as a family. As a doula (which I guess also makes me a small business owner) I have been working to form a community with other doulas without feeling competition with one another. Because we all have different things to offer the clients we don't necessarily attract the same customer base. We will only benefit by working together instead of in competition with one another. I can't imagine treating a woman rudely because she chose another doula over me. Whose to say she won't recommend me to a friend or use me the next time she gets pregnant? Berating a potential future customer of his was pretty short sighted of that owner. Perhaps if he worked together with his competition to increase awareness of the importance of supporting local businesses (instead of national chains) there would be more business available for everybody.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your support and perspective. It is easy to lose track of a broader scope when the insight becomes narrow. Peace all!

Tara said...

Wow, I feel that his reaction was totally uncalled for especially in light of the circumstances. I am sorry that had to affect your kids in that way. I personally would not patronize him and tell everyone I know about his behavior so they could choose whether or not (probably not) to patronize his business. Food is a SERVICE based job, customer service. He's missing a big piece of the puzzle there.

Lisa said...

Well, this just shows you're a better person than me because I would have said nothing and just dropped the lemonade and leftovers all over their front walkway (or on the floor inside) and gone back to the car empty handed.