Confrontation: I hate it. I go to occasionally extreme measures to avoid it. When people have to differ in opinion in my presence, I prefer for it to be handled in a cool-headed, respectful way and tend to be the type to “agree to disagree.”
Luckily, almost everyone else in Japan seems to share this “we don’t have to love it but let’s not squabble” vibe. With the exception of my BIL. But I’m sure he’d disagree with that.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first head-butting I had today was at English school. We have two classes. During the preschool class, older siblings manage to wait more or less quietly. During the elementary class, the younger ones who have just finished up go abso-freaking-crazy. Our classroom opens up into a meeting space, with a small play area in the corner. The children are welcome to play there or use the meeting space quietly. But they don’t. They run around and carry on, as children will. My own children do this as well.
However, the man in charge of the space has been complaining about this. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t complain sooner. But in typical non-confrontational Japanese style, he approached my husband. Who then puts me in charge of it.
Some of the kids I can round up and distract, but two in particular I was having trouble getting back into the play area. So I approached their father. (This was not the first parent I approached, btw.) I said something along the lines of
“The kids are getting rowdy and the staff is complaining. Can you help make sure your kids stay in the play area?”
The usual response would be, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Or that is how I would (and have) reacted. It’s how their mother would have reacted. But the Dad got really offended and wanted to know why I was “only” talking about his kids. (At this point they were throwing shoes across the room.) “Other kids are running around, too,” he said, color rising.
I was taken aback and a little hurt by his reaction. I think I may have stammered an apology and walked away, though I may not have said anything now that I think about it…Shouldn’t have apologized since I wasn’t wrong, and surely one should step in when kids start throwing shoes about…And he did round the kids up after that, so mission accomplished I suppose.
So tell me, why do I feel like crap about the whole encounter?
Later at the in-laws I had a run-in with BIL. I think he might be trying to get a head start on SOB of the Year 2012 award. Today he started in on me about math.
Why even bother?
He tells me that the Japanese are clearly superior to Americans when it comes to math.
HamakkoMommy: …..(cold sweat.)
SOB 2012: But the Indians are even better. And do you know why? Rote Memorization.
HamakkoMommy: …..(thinks to herself that she has never heard the term rote memorization used in a positive context before.)
SOB 2012: The Indians make the kids memorize their times tables to really high numbers! So do we Japanese. (aside: I loathe this “we Japanese” crap.我々日本人はblah blah gag….)
HamakkoMommy: Yes, I can see the Japanese way of teaching is different. In America, I think they focus more on learning the skill of multiplication than memorizing times tables.
SOB 2012: Yes! America is wrong.
HamakkoMommy: ( ？ _ ？ ）Different countries have different ways of teaching, I suppose. (Looks desperately around the room for some help, but everyone seems over-absorbed in their food.)
SOB: Spoken by a people who suck at math. Stupid.アホ！(As opposed to the less offensive バカ. I hear y’all down in Kansai get all twisted up the other way round.)
I was tempted to get up and go home. Maybe I should have….At this point I got a sympathetic glance from my MIL. Then I put my non-confrontational skills to use:
“Speaking of stupid, did you see so-and-so on TV the other day?”
Once everyone got on another topic, I went and took a breather in the bathroom. It’s nicer than it sounds; they’ve remodeled recently. I think the toilet might actually respond if you address it directly.
HamakkoMommy: What should I do when BIL treats me like crap?
Toilet: Shall I flush?