Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Kick in the eye

Little kids have very little room for grey areas in their very black and white worlds, things are right and wrong, good and bad, period.  Molly and Jack, both pretty obsessed with Star Wars are always talking about good guys vs. bad guys, the dark side vs. the light side, and wrong vs. right.  Trying to explain areas of judgment, and even differences in ways other people parent can be really difficult for them to grasp, particularly when they see one of their peers do something that they know they'd get in trouble for.

A few weeks ago we were at a local playground together and Molly ran into an old friend and began playing.  While they were playing (see running around like crazy and climbing everywhere), the friend accidentally kicked Jack in the head.  Jack was hurt and began crying, hard.

Here's a thing to know about Jack, he is rough and tumble, and rarely cries, even when he's hurt, I've received notes home from school about skinned knees, lumps on heads, scratches and bruises, and
90 percent of the time, even though he's quite hurt he rarely cries.

I ran over to see what happened. Through his tears he told me that he'd been kicked in the head. Neither I, or the other parent had seen what had happened, only heard Jack crying.  I cuddled Jack, explained to him that hanging out in front of swings, at the bottom of slides, or beneath monkeybars wasn't a good idea, and that it was easy to get hurt that way.  The other parent came over to me and repeated once again that they didn't see what had happened, I said that he had been kicked in the head, by their child, by accident.  The kid who had kicked Jack played on, not acknowledging Jack or that he'd been hurt.  Molly watched quietly.

BFFs, even on a rainy day

Once Jack was feeling a better, he quickly went from being hurt to being angry yelling that he didn't want to play with that child any more and that they were mean.  I tried my best to calm him down, and once things had cooled a little we left the playground for home.

Later that night, during dinner, Jack asked me the following question, "If someone doesn't get upset when they hurt someone, does that mean that they are a bad person?" I asked him if this had anything to do with what had happened at the playground, and he nodded slowly.  I explained to him that sometimes people get embarrassed about hurting someone and don't know what to do.  I assured him it was an accident.  "But why didn't they apologize? I'd always apologize, and even if I didn't want to you'd make sure I did." asked Molly.

I tried to explain to both of my children that one of my favourite things about them is how kind they are, that they care about others and are willing to admit their mistakes. I told them about how different families have different rules and ways of dealing with things than we do, and how it's not my job to make other children apologize, but I am proud that our family values and rules are also important to them.  Maybe I over-parent sometimes, because I would've likely forced an apology, and maybe, at this age in particular, that isn't for the best.

I think they get the picture, but are both upset about what happened. Molly feels a responsibility for defending her brother, and has worked out "plans" about what she will do if something like this happens again.

I tried to work out whether or not there was anything I should or can do in the future in a similar situation to make things easier for my kids.  I'll admit, it took a lot of restraint on my part not to go full on "Mama Bear Mode" at the park.  Then I was reminded of a recent Gretchen Rubin podcast clip I'd listened to a few days before that acknowledges the sometimes hard to swallow truth that we can't spare our children normal social pain, it's a part of growing up.  I can't (and shouldn't) "parent" other people's kids, nor should they mine.

I'm glad that as my kids approach their fifth birthday that they have strong concern and empathy for each other and others, even as they make their own friends.  Who'd have thought that a kick to the head would lead me to a proud parenting moment?

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