Last weekend, I did something I swore I’d never do. I said sharp words to another person’s child. I even harbored fantasies of grabbing her little arm and wagging my finger in her face. But I held myself to a few angry words.
On Sunday, our little family went to the mall to buy a new computer. While Dave took care of the details, I took R to the little indoor play area (Play? Me? She asked with incredulous joy). I watched from the sidelines as R struggled to climb the steps to the slide, often being run over by other, older children who didn’t have the patience for a barely two-year-old. I held my tongue, figuring she needed to learn how to fit in and climb those stairs, and God, I can’t do everything for her.
She was thrilled with the whole experience, though occasionally bewildered when the other children would cut her in line. And I was happy too. When it began to get really crowded, the line for the little slide stretched a ways out. R was a real sweetheart, waiting her turn and giggling with some other children. Suddenly, a little girl who had been particularly rough earlier on came up to R and another little girl. She placed two hands on R’s chest and pushed with all her might. And then kicked her once she fell down.
I was livid.
I don’t know what came over me, but I felt like the stereotypical lioness rushing to protect her cub. R wasn’t even crying, just sitting there on the ground kind of stunned. I looked around wildly for her parents, but no one seemed to care. So I marched over and said to that little girl with all the anger and “mad voice” I could muster (and that was a lot) “We don’t push other people down. We don’t kick people. And I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t do it to my kid.”
And I grabbed R and we were out of there. And I felt even angrier that R was basically being punished for that child’s rude and possibly dangerous behavior.In retrospect, what I did probably had no affect on that child whatsoever. And her absent parents obviously didn’t care very much about her behavior. She had been running roughshod over many of the other children the entire time we were there, even sliding over a BABY because his father was too slow in getting him up from the bottom of the slide.
But now I’m left to wonder what is the right answer in situations like that? If the misbehaving child’s parents are nowhere to be found, what are we supposed to do? I don’t want to teach R to run from her battles (or that mommy will fight them for her), but I also don’t want her to think that I won’t be there for her whenever I can.