When I pick up Pollito after school I always have the 3 other kids in the car. Milagro often naps during this time and I have to park a little ways from the pickup spot so I have to either leave kids in the car or bring them all with me. Neither of these options is pleasant but I change it up regularly to keep them on their toes. Yesterday I also had my 9 year old niece in the car. As we were approaching the school there was a father in middle of the crosswalk with his 4 or 5 year old daughter walking slightly behind him. I slowed down and came to a complete stop as I asked my kids what they saw. No sooner had Corazon noted that the dad wasn't holding his daughter's hand than the man jumped back into the street and waved his fists toward my car and yelled some expletives. The kids were taken aback and I just brushed it off because it was unclear why he was angry at me. We found a parking spot and a few minutes later the same man rapped on my window and started yelling at me. I opened the window a bit as he screamed at me for going too fast and not waiting for them to finish crossing the street. In fact, I wasn't going too fast and I had come to a complete stop but he was hell bent on chewing me out for it. Initially I tried to point out that I had stopped well before reaching the crosswalk but he just kept on yelling. Eventually he said "what if my daughter had run back into the street?" I commented that was the reason I came to a FULL STOP way before reaching the crosswalk but then I realized he wasn't going to be able to handle the truth so I asked him what he wanted. He said for me to drive more carefully (not in such nice words) and I calmly said "Fine, I will." as he stormed off. The kids were very upset that he spoke to me the way he did and they couldn't understand why he was yelling when I hadn't done anything wrong. They got even more upset as they recalled that he hadn't been doing the safe thing in letting his daughter cross without holding his hand. AHA! There it was! He got scared!
I asked them to speculate on why he would get angry at me when I didn't do anything wrong. They got it. He was the one who did something wrong but he put the blame on me. Why would he do that? Corazon said "because he got scared when he saw that he had done something unsafe." It was a perfect opportunity for them to connect to their own experiences. Corazon got it. She quickly recounted times when she does something wrong and then tries to deflect blame on others and even finds herself feeling anger toward others. Tortuga had a harder time making the connection but he did speculate that the man might be embarrassed by his own mistake. I was so pleased to hear them make these connections to their own behaviors.
Immediately on the heels of this experience (as in a few minutes later) we had an "incident" in the car. I had gotten out with Corazon to get Pollito and left my niece, Milagro and Tortuga in the car. (I cannot leave Corazon AND Tortuga in the car.) In the few minutes we were gone (about 5-6) in which Tortuga (accidentally) scratched my niece on her chest leaving a pretty obvious mark. I got really angry when I discovered what he had done. They (Corazon and my niece) didn't tell me until we were home and to his credit he did not deny it. But he did try to blame it on her (she wouldn't do what he told her) and then on me (I let her do more than him). Tortuga was 100% wrong in everything he did and he just couldn't/wouldn't "get it." He was quite self-righteous in his defense of why he did what he did (which was to yell at her and grab her but in the process he scratched her chest) and HIS belief that she was doing something she wasn't supposed to do (she wasn't) and that it was HIS RIGHT (his word) to stop her. After unpacking the incident and his responses he was able to acknowledge that he was feeling jealous that my niece could have more responsibility in the car and frustrated that he couldn't engage her in playing around with him so he resorted to trying to control her actions and bully her. He got angry when I told him he would need to apologize to her but he was quickly able to acknowledge that he did not want to apologize to her because he was embarrassed. We had to sort out that the embarrassment should be about doing what he did and not about having to make restitution and apologize. I think he is starting to get that. Even though this was a pretty serious issue I was really impressed with his ability to identify some pretty important feelings underneath the anger AND he was able to have this conversation pretty soon after being confronted without losing his cool. Hard work but definitely seeing some important steps in the right direction.
Side note: Someone asked me about what meds he is on. Right now he isn't on any meds (I am not completely opposed to them but have taken a "no meds right now" stance.) He does take fish oil and niacin supplements, a multivitamin, and a small dose of melatonin to help him with sleep issues and nightime fears.