So, as a mom, the code around town is that you don’t discipline other people’s kids. I get that. If my son pushed someone I’d lose my sh*t if another adult yelled at him.
So, here are the 5 times I watched a child hit my son and couldn’t get mad at the other kid. What would you do in these situations?
1. We were at a potential preschool. S was playing blocks with two 4 year old boys who were already students there. I was seated about 5 feet away, watching. S was putting blocks somewhere and boy 1 said “Those don’t go there!” in a loud, bossy way.
S took a beat and in the same bossy tone said back, “Yes they do.”
(I was thinking “You go, boy!”)
“No they don’t” boy 1 said back, louder. Angrier.
“Yes they do,” S mirrored his tone again.
Boy 2 bonked S on the head with a block and said, “That’s for being mean to my friend!”
S was quiet. I was frozen with horror, couldn’t think. Couldn’t get a teacher. Just frozen trying not to scream at the two boys and trying to wait for S’s reaction. Would he cry? Would he run to me? And as I froze, I realized I was doing nothing. And actually, nothing is what they say to do. That’s what I did, as the boys all glared at each other. The tension was painful in my gut. S wasn’t crying though. What the hell could I do?
I had to do something. I couldn’t help it. “Spenser, do you want to see the puzzles they have over there?” I asked, flailing. I’m good at distraction.
Then boy 1 stood up. “Yeah, I’ll show you the puzzles,” he said.
“OK,” S said, following him to the puzzles.
Boy 2 followed them, merrily.
It blew over, without so much as a mention later. Though my heart hurt.
2. We were at gym class. I sit in the lobby as he takes class, but I saw Spenser not letting another boy onto the slide. Was he playing bad guy? Pirate? Superhero? Was he just exercising aggression and testosterone? Had the boy done or said something first?
I just saw my little guy blocking the entrance to the slide and shouting “No!”
Then, the other boy hit S on the forehead with the palm of his hand and S’s head went back. Again, my instinct to run in and scream at the boy was squelched by that dumb rule of staying out of things. Was that the right thing? My gut told me to run in there and scoop S in my arms and scream “We don’t hit,” and another woman’s son. But I waved to the teacher, who quickly came over and intervened… mostly just breaking the two up and guiding them into an activity.
I’m not saying that my son wasn’t being provoking, but S didn’t hit back. I was glad of that… right? I mean, I don’t want him to hit back, Right?
3. We were playing at the park Again, S wasn’t letting a boy on the slide, saying “No!” in a deep voice. Was it a character? Was he trying to be like the kids who tell him no? This time he got punched in the stomach. The puncher was his age, but bigger. This was the hardest hit yet.
I inhaled loudly as I sprang to my feet as was at the scene in one second. I tried not to f’ing lose it as I went to S. “Are you OK?” He was, though he was angry. “Tell the boy if you didn’t like that,” I coached.
“I don’t like that!” Spenser screamed.
“I don’t like that!” the boy repeated, in the same tone as S.
The boy’s father came over and I told him his son hit S. The boy’s dad said something lame like, don’t do that again.
The two kids continued to yell “I don’t like that!” back and forth, until the other kid punched S again, right in front of us. I inhaled sharply again waiting for the father to parent.
“No! don’t do that. Say sorry,” the dad said. And when the kid wouldn’t he laughed and shrugged and kind of walked away.
Now, I know there are all kinds of parenting styles out there, but I don’t think laughing and shrugging is one of them. I was hoping for a we’re leaving response, but you can’t always get what you want, so I took my boy away from the feral beast, and told him how I thought the father should have handled the situation. I told him I was very sorry he got hurt and I was so proud of him for using his words.
4. At another park. A girl was trying to play with S and his friend. She spoke mostly Russian, it seemed and couldn’t communicate with the kids well and walked off sulking, feelings hurt, because they didn’t understand what she was saying – which I assume was can I play with you. S’s friend went over to say sorry to her. Then S, in an effort to cheer her up and make her laugh, gave her a hilarious raspberry! Little did he know, that although everyone laughed when Caillu did it, most people take a raspberry as a taunting gesture.
The girl punched S in the stomach. Really hard.
I ran over and so did the dad. I don’t really know what he said because it was in Russian, but I do know her punch hurt more than the other boy’s. She apologized and the father took her home.
I explained to S that although he thought she would laugh at the raspberry, it actually made her angry. He agreed not to do raspberries anymore.
5. Forth of July Block Party. Bounce House. Playing with a bunch of kids he didn’t know. One boy says, “You can’t come up here (to the slide.)”
S comes and tells me the boy won’t let him slide. I remind him that it doesn’t feel good to be told he can’t slide. He agrees. S tries to slide again. Again the boy says “Only Zombies can slide.”
I’m hot, tired, the kids are unsupervised, I say, “Actually, he CAN slide, so please let him.”
“No!” the boy argues, “He’s not a zombie.”
“Then make him a Zombie!” I say, finally intervening, as I have been wanting to do.
“No, I won’t,” the boy, who is probably 5 says.
“Well, he can slide,” I say, sternly, locking eyes with the boy. He let’s S slide.
S is playing happily until…. he comes down the slide and says, “Um. Mom. A boy hit me in the stomach up there.”
I assume it was that one. I can’t be sure. There’s a covered tunnel part. “Are you OK?” I ask.
“Yeah, yeah.” He says. Again, my son didn’t hit back. And believe me, I know he wants to.
So… I took him to a Jui Jujitsu class