Nicole Bescoby, a mom with a sweet 7-year-old daughter named Ellie, recently had an uncomfortable experience while riding the bus she couldn't help but share. In a now-viral Facebook post, Nicole explained what happened when her daughter didn't feel comfortable talking to a male stranger. Despite the stranger giving Nicole grief and going as far as to call Ellie impolite, Nicole was proud that her daughter stood her ground.
"A man sat next to my daughter on the bus," explained Nicole. "The bus wasn't particularly [crowded], yet he chose the seat next to her. She stood up and moved over to me. She didn't make a big deal about it, she just clearly didn't feel comfortable sitting with him. 'Aw you don't need to be scared. Give me a high five' She didn't want to. She turned into me and refused to acknowledge him. I smiled at him and then my children and I went back to our conversation."
Unfortunately, the stranger didn't seem to get the message and kept trying to speak with Ellie. "'Are you looking forward to Christmas?' he asked my daughter. In an effort to diffuse the situation, Nicole stepped in. I thought perhaps he was lonely so I smiled and answered on her behalf. We exchanged the usual pleasantries that people share at this time of year. A brief summery of my family's plans and enjoyment of the season. Listening in turn as he shared his own," she wrote. "I'm not great socially, but I try to be polite and I hate to think anyone is lonely. I was happy enough to have a conversation in that moment."
Things took an uncomfortable turn when the man tried to engage Ellie for the third time. "'Cat got your tongue?' he tried again. Leaning in close to my lovely girl," said Nicole. "I felt her press into me. Trying to merge into my body. Everything about her body language was screaming STOP . . . but he wasn't listening. Why do people do this?"
Nicole promptly spoke up, explaining that Ellie just didn't feel like talking. After asking if she was shy, Nicole began discussing her evening plans with her kids in an attempt to end the conversation.
"'You should teach her some manners. She should at least be polite!' He admonished me. I looked at him and I saw all the times people had ignored my discomfort," said Nicole. "From grandparents demanding hugs. Aunties chasing me to 'pinch a kiss.' Being tickled until I couldn't breath and it was a long way from fun. Family friends demanding I speak to them. Strangers demanding I be civil... All because it suited THEM. I remembered the times I had been called rude because I didn't feel like speaking. I remembered all the times I was forced to put other people's comfort above my own."
"I turned to my daughter and spoke clearly so she could hear and so that he could hear too: 'Sweetie, you do NOT have to speak to this person.'"
She continued, reflecting on a time she recalls feeling uncomfortable while out one night with friends. "I remember the time a man in a nightclub called me frigid because I pushed him away when he was pressing himself up against me. A friend laughing and telling me it was absolutely fine," she said. "I should dance with him. I shouldn't turn him away. He was just having harmless fun . . . And the man was her boyfriend's friend. Did I want to ruin their night by being miserable? I remember wanting to go home but feeling like I couldn't because it would upset my friend. I remember crying later because I had felt so uncomfortable and trapped all night."
In that exact moment, Nicole knew that she was doing the right thing. No one — particularly small children — should talk to people who make them feel uncomfortable. "It's not a lesson I am teaching my children," she wrote. "My children's comfort and feelings matter! They do not owe anyone anything, and when they are feeling uncomfortable they don't have to pretend they're OK to stroke someone else's ego."
As far as Nicole is concerned, Ellie handled herself appropriately in the situation, and she said so in the moment. "'She hasn't been impolite. She doesn't have to talk to you!' I said to him. Then I turned to my daughter and spoke clearly so she could hear and so that he could hear too: 'Sweetie, you do NOT have to speak to this person. People do NOT get to make you feel bad. You can tell him to stop and if he doesn't listen then HE is wrong and you can make sure he knows it! If people like this don't listen you can shout 'Stop, right now! Leave me alone,' and you keep shouting it until they hear!'"
The man muttered something under his breath along the lines of, "I know where she gets it!" but Nicole simply wasn't having it. She replied, "So do I" and hurried her family off the bus. Looking back, Nicole knows in her heart she made the right decision. What example would she be setting for her children if is told them to ignore their own boundaries?
"In this case my children's interaction is between the pushy old man on the bus. Another time it may be a relative who doesn't respect their boundary," explained Nicole. "Or a friend who pushed them to do something they know is wrong . . . One day it may be a man who doesn't listen when they say no. I want her to know she has a choice. She never has to stay quiet for someone else's benefit. She is powerful and she is able to say STOP. I want her to know Stop means STOP... And No means NO ... And if someone is offended by her boundaries, that's THEIR problem."