I have been back and forth trying to decide to write this post or not because I’m not sure if I’m looking for advice or trying to give it and trust me, I am not the parent who should be dishing out parenting advice. Right now my son should be sleeping but instead he is playing in his bed with eight monster trucks, an oversized dinosaur and a handful of Lego because somehow I’ve incorporated this into our bedtime routine.
Tizzie Hall I am not.
Instead of writing this, I thought about googling “kids, parks, playgrounds, etiquette” because over the weekend I could have done with a chapter on this.
I’ve heard about those urban myths where parents lose their shit at another child and then there is this insane and entirely unreasonable altercation between the parents as a result. Only last week talk back radio was talking about disciplining other people’s children and I was a bit conflicted by the argument because I didn’t quite know what I would do in a situation that I hadn’t yet experienced.
That was until the weekend when someone’s else child hurt my child.
Hell hath no fury than a mother who watches her child get hurt but another child whose intention is to hurt my child.
In an episode that lasted 30 seconds I witnessed a child grab and squeeze Charlie around the neck to the point that Charlie was coughing and crying and wrestling to get away. My bat signal went off and it took me two seconds to get to both children, scowling at the mean kid before comforting my own.
With no parents to be seen I was properly pissed off and suddenly I understood the term tiger mum.
I don’t have my head in the sand, I am a self-confessed helicopter parent so I was watching my child the whole time and I know without question, he did not touch this child, he did not “start anything.”
Trust me, I know how that sounds.
No child is perfect and I am not blind to my child’s imperfections. He is sweet but he is no unicorn. At the park he is that annoying child climbing UP the slide when your child is trying to slide DOWN the slide and his propensity to ride his scooter through a group of ladies leisurely cruising the footpath has me forever apologising to those who he leaves in his wake.
By nature my child is kind and sensitive he is also wilful and impatient but he is not mean.
This is not childish naivety on my part by the way.
Why do kids bully other children and why do they physically act out? It’s not good enough to say “kids will be kids” and I’m not buying the “boys will be boys” bullshit either. Ending a culture that is threaded with coward punch attacks and domestic violence is going to be generational. Since the next generation are those kids in the playgrounds on a Sunday then I will rant about some child who thinks it’s okay to hurt another child, mine or not. Charlie and his best friend are forever playing rough and sometimes someone gets hurt. But there is a difference between rough and tumble and having a strangle hold on someone. We are working hard to raise our son to be kind and strong and resilient and to stand up for himself but we have a very clear zero tolerance to hitting and Charlie knows this. My girlfriend who was with me at the time of this incidence made the relevant and important point about where does a child actually learns to strangle hold another child? Movies? Books? Games? Or sadly and heartbreakingly at home?
Though this incident left me feeling really unsettled and I’m trying really hard for parenting judgement to not be a part of this narrative , I can’t help but be frustrated when there were no parents to be seen. I get that children have to play unsupervised and that learning to do so is crucial to their development but where is the line in the sand where on one side you allow your child the wild freedom to run and play and on the other side you make sure they aren’t acting like little jerks? I am well aware that on any given park day, it could be my child being the obnoxious one which is why I am relentless in my pursuit of teaching him about kindness.
I have 12 years of school yard carry on and maybe in a few years’ time I will read this and roll my eyes at my own ignorance but I can’t help wondering why are some kids ostensibly so mean? Is it a DNA thing and are kids born to be mean and do mean kids become bullies?
Rhetorical questions because does anyone even have the answer?
That I gave another child a dressing down is not a fact I am especially proud of and it wasn’t one of my finest moments but in that moment I learnt that I cannot always protect my child and so my maternal instincts took aim. To give balance to this, if another parent had reprimanded my child for deliberately hurting another child I would be horrified and mortified. Not because they did it but because my son would give them reason to do so in the first place.
I think we are all just doing the very best we can and as long as we can all agree that raising our children to be decent human beings is a win for all.
In the glorious words of R J Palacio, we would do well to remember –
“We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.”