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When Push Comes to Shove

Playground Politics Gone Awry

We've just been to a music and dance class for two and three year olds. Marjory has just returned after the winter away and it was just what was needed. One of my son's very best friends, S, arrived, and as always they were delighted and joyful in one another's company. She is a friend every bit his equal in stature and vigor, and after a year of friendship, they are easy and comfortable with one another. So it's this kind of morning, the kind of morning when, if I am thinking about raising a loving boy, if the article Prevent Another Steubenville: What We Must Teach Our Sons on my mind, I might feel proud as a mother of a son. I am feeling easy and unguarded this morning. My son usually plays well with others, and some of his dearest and closest playmates are girls.  I think my attachment parenting has served him well. We haven't always been perfect, there are times when there are tensions at home, when we don't model well, but we have managed to raise a happy, resilient and loving child. 

So we are out in the garden after dance class and the sun is taking off some of the chill left after the rain, and the kids are running around and dangling from the trees and squealing with delight.

There's a lady there with her younger daughter. I know her, vaguely, recollecting their faces but not quite placing them. She is a friend on Facebook. But we have only met in person once or twice when her daughter was younger. They've been away. We are talking, reacquainting, when suddenly I see my son push the little girl down hard on the brick path. She falls all the way back, comes close to hitting her head. The girl is screaming and I am leaping to the scene. My son tries escaping but I have his hand. "Come here and say you're sorry to this little girl."

"I'm sorry," he says, swiftly, and a little softly.

"He's trying to say he's sorry," the little girl's mother says to her. "Do you accept it?"

I say softly to my son, "Say it again. Say, 'I'm SO sorry.'"

"I'm SO sorry," C says. He puckers his lips up for a kiss the way he does to me after he's made me mad, and I shake my head and point to the girl, and he directs his pucker at her, then, remembering how he usually makes up with a friend,  he opens up his arms for a hug.

But he doesn't really know this girl, and she doesn't reciprocrate. She's still upset.

I probably at this point get a little too heavy handed, laying guilt on my boy for making her cry. There is nothing to do but accept full blame where blame is due.  But I think I was pushing a little too hard when I continued, "You could have hurt her. These bricks are hard," and my overexertion provoked a surly response I should have predicted:

"They're not that hard," he said. Fresh one.

Just when I had thought we were out of the situation.

"They ARE hard," I said again. "They are VERY hard."

Now as if I haven't overblown the situation enough, the other mother, a woman I hardly know, kneels down in front of my son, with her daughter in her arms, and says, "Don't ever do that again, Cayce. If I ever see you do that again, I will hit you. Do you want me to hit you?"

"No," he says.

She winks at me. A wink that gives me a shiver.

"You wouldn't like it if I hit you, would you?" she says to him.

"No," I say, pulling my son away. "We don't hit at all," I say.

My son runs off to play with his friend and I say,

"You know, I don't think that's the best way to handle that."

"I'm sorry," she says, and flashes a look of concern toward her daughter.

"You don't threaten to hit a child," I say.

I turn to look at my son playing in the tree with his friend. His pant leg is wet from his crotch to his ankle.
Did you have an accident, Honey?"

"I pee-peed," he says.

"It's ok," I say. "But we're going to have to go home. Your going to get chilled."

He runs into the bushes with S.

I have to get him and get out of there. I am so upset with this woman for threatening him like that, for scaring the piss out of him. This woman whom I barely know.  An adult, a virtual stranger, threatening to hit my child.

I start carrying him to the car. My friend, S's mom, walks along with us to the gate with her two daughters.  At our car, Cayce  settles into his car seat immediately, tired and wet, with Oreo crumbs on the corners of his mouth.

I reel as I drive him slowly home.

I have taught him to be trusting, exuberant, expressive and bold. He is three and energetic and sometimes too forceful, but he is just three. He is still learning. They are all still learning.  When my child has been on the receiving end of a push or a hit from another kid, I have run to him, I have comforted him, I have felt that helpless feeling you have when you see your child suffer, and I have assured him that he is fine, to calm him down, even if I am still in the process of confirming that fact.  Because most of the time he is just fine. And we have to be their models of resilience, as well as of kindness and unconditional love.

Photo accredited to 123RF. Foto del archivo.