Earlier this week, the girls and I went to Chipotle for lunch. When we got to the front of the line I explained to one of the servers that my daughters have Celiac’s disease. She immediately removed all of the used spoons, changed her gloves and waited for her co-worker to bring clean utensils. In the transition, she forgot about the woman (in front of us) awaiting a fresh batch of rice.
“Are you kidding me? Go get that other spoon and get me my rice. I am not waiting. This is ridiculous. What possibly has wheat in it anyway?” She was angry. She’d been standing in the clogged lunch rush line waiting her turn to be served.
“I’m very sorry they didn’t wait to change the spoons until you were finished with your order,” I said calmly.
“This is ridiculous, get the spoon and finish my order,” she glared at the server, ignoring my presence.
“It’s ok, we can start again in a moment. Please, it’s ok, you can finish her order.” The server apologized to me, and sheepishly continued down the line with the woman.
“Mommy, what did we do wrong? She was so angry at us,” Emma whispered.
“Oh honey, we didn’t do anything wrong. She’s not angry at us, she’s angry about something else that has nothing to do with her lunch.”
The girls continued to ask about the interaction, so when we sat down to eat, I explained that how we act and behave is our responsibility, no one else’s. We choose to be angry. We choose to be happy. We choose to be patient. We choose to be mean. We choose to be kind. No one else makes us behave in the way we do.
It was the woman’s choice to be angry with the situation. She was angry. Period. She would have found something or someone to be angry with whether she was standing at the counter at Chipotle, or on the beach with no one around but the seagulls.
I asked them how they would have handled it if they were in her position.
Ruby said, “I would have been nice and said, “I’m sorry you can’t eat wheat.””
Emma said, “I would have been patient.”
Due to my sensitivity, I tend to internalize other people’s reactions whether directed at me or proximally. I immediately ask myself (just like the girls did), “What did I do to upset them?”
Sometimes my inner child needs this reminder, too: People’s reactions belong to them, not to me. I am solely responsible for my actions, and you are solely responsible for yours. I can’t make you angry, and you can’t make me angry.
I choose the way in which I respond and react.
I couldn’t control the server’s actions (of removing the spoons too soon), just as I couldn’t control the reaction of the woman in line, but I could control how I responded to the situation and how I chose to see it. I chose to be understanding and patient. I chose to enjoy our lunch, long line, altercation and all. ~Rebecca