This morning when I dropped Matty off at school, I walked him to the area where his class was, gave him a big hug and a kiss and we parted ways. The play area where they were is pretty big and open. I watched Matty as I walked out of the room. He walked quietly by himself into the play area amongst the other kids and eyed a basketball lying on the ground close to the exit where I was heading. I thought for a slight second about how happy Seth would be to know that a basketball was his first choice and then suddenly, from out of nowhere, a kid twice Matty’s size (or so it seemed) barreled him over, tackling him to the ground. Matty scrambled underneath the kid to get a hold of the ball and he did, but the giant slapped his hands around, snatched the ball out and ran off – leaving Matty on the ground screaming and sobbing.
I helped Matty stand up and hugged him over the barrier gate. His tears soaked the shoulder of my shirt and his wails drowned out the sound of the other kids. His teacher, who didn’t see exactly what happened, came over to help and coming to the conclusion that this other kid had taken Matty’s ball, pointed out a bin of balls across the room. I didn’t tell her what happened because I knew whatever came out of my mouth would be dripping with snark — not of her but of the child — so, instead, I did what I knew I was supposed to do. I told Matty it was okay and reminded him to “use his words”, of course referring to “I don’t like that”. But I really wanted to tell him to tell that kid to fuck off and leave him alone, not to take his shit and to pull his head out of his ass. Like, “dude, there are 700 balls in this room – target another one. And get a life.” But I couldn’t do that, so I did what felt like the most ineffective thing and just told him it was okay.
But, let’s be serious, it’s not okay. And I get that they’re two- and three-year olds but what the fuck, man? I once asked Matty’s teacher if he was generally nice to the other kids and his teacher told me that yes, he was really nice to the other kids but that, for some reason, he tended to get his toys and things taken from him more often than the others. That he was “one of their more sensitive ones”. DID YOUR HEART JUST BREAK? Because when I heard that, mine did. One one hand, that’s great because he’s kind and sweet. But on the other hand, it’s terrible because we all know kids are assholes and if you let them, they’ll break you. I’ve held Seth off on teaching Matty to defend himself which, in his mind, means hitting/pushing/tackling back because I don’t want Matty to have to learn how to be hard yet. I want to keep him soft and sensitive. I’d like him to have the smarts and vocabulary to defend himself without hitting/pushing/tackling back. And, you guys, he’s two. Two. He SHOULD be sensitive and soft and kind and playful and optimistic. He shouldn’t be looking over his shoulder every second scared or believing the only way you get things in this world is to steal them or bully people for them.
I know Matty’s not perfect but he’s not a bully, I do know that. And he’s not an asshole. But trust me, if he was, I would know. And I would not tolerate it for a fucking millisecond. If you’re a parent, have some situational awareness – pay attention to how your kids treat other kids. Discipline them. And I get it, it’s not easy but it’s not easy for any of us. Do not allow yourself be the parent at the playground who’s kid is pushing and shoving their way in front of other kids. Don’t let your kid be the one at the Children’s Museum throwing water at the other kids while you’re not even paying attention. Don’t let your kid be an asshole and get away with it. Do your job. Just do your fucking job. There is nothing more annoying than having to teach my son to use his stupid pointless words when you refuse to discipline yours for being a complete shit.
We can all do better.