Monday, October 21, 2013

Baby Bullies

First of all, that's my husband in this picture -- not the baby bully. Please don't hunt him down and beat him up... :-D

I wasn't sure I wanted to write a post about bullying for my blog. It's such a "thing" right now, and I want to focus on building up the good in my little one, more than spreading the negativity. Still, I feel the need for some mom-advice here. Any tips, suggestions, please comment below.

So, here goes:

Last week, we went to the Ben & Jerry's park. We've had an entire year of great park experiences there. It can be a little touristy, but I've never minded -- mainly because most tourists are here to celebrate our pretty state and enjoy being friendly with us, the "locals." Ha! I've met some really fun moms and kids.

This time, there was a family of a mom and her 4 kids at the park. I'm guessing her kids' ages were: 18, 12, 7, and 2 or 3. E ran up the playground steps to start her usual routine: steering wheel, log cabin, slide, repeat. When she got to the steering wheel, the 2-year-old ran up next to her and tried to use it too -- no big deal, we're used to this.

E said, "It's my turn!!"
"Yes, it is. Take turns, please!" I said to both of them.

He didn't listen (I get it, he's 2.), and she decided she'd rather move on to the log cabin. He followed her in. She sat on the bench. He sat next to her, then pushed her off. She fell down.

"Hey, no pushing, please!" I said sternly.

E got up and left the cabin. He followed her and pushed her again. I looked up to find his mom. She ran by me and almost knocked me over. Her oldest son was right behind her. If any of you know the Ben and Jerry's playground, you'll know that it's not very big. It's one structure with 2 ways to climb up, 2 slides down, and a bridge. Small. The mom and her other 3 kids were chasing each other all over the structure and around it. As I got E back on her feet, she started across the bridge, and the 7-year-old crashed right into her, while chasing his mom.

His mom yelled, "Be careful," as she laughed and chased after her oldest son.

I picked up E and told her that maybe it was best if we left. She wanted to do the slide. All the kids were now off the structure, so I told her to go ahead. As she climbed the steps to the slide, the 2-year-old came up and pushed her off. "Hey, stop!" I said, but he climbed up and went down the slide without listening. E seemed okay, and she climbed up and went down the slide. The mom was now gone, running in the field next to the park with her other kids while her 2-year-old was left on his own at the park.

Another mom was just as surprised and annoyed as I was. We both left.

I really try not to judge other moms. I think it's great to run and play with your kids. The 2-year-old was a mess -- dirt from head-to-toe, matted hair, long fingernails, ripped clothes. But, E definitely does not go the park pristine, especially after she's played in the mud at daycare. And, have you tried to cut the nails on a toddler? I imagine it's not unlike de-clawing a cat in your garage. E also goes to day care and the park with the occasional case of bed-head. It wasn't that... it was just that, all those things together made it seem like, the kid was a bit "on his own." And, independence is good, but... he was in need of a little guidance.

In retrospect, it's easy to say what I would have done, but I wish I had flagged down the mom to talk to her child. Though E is learning to stand up for herself, she looked to me a few times, like, "Mom, are we going to let this happen?" And the answer was, of course, "No," but to prevent it, we had to leave our favorite park. She cried when we left -- you know, that "It's not fair," cry. And it wasn't.

Next time, I will speak up more for my kid. I promise. Even if it's hard. Even if the other mom hates me or picks a fight. I will do it. And, if it's horrible, I hope you'll all support me here. I will run back to the understanding arms of my readers! Haha!

The silver lining? There always has to be one, right? I must find it! For me, in this case, it's that: I saw what my kid could be, and I know that she's not. There are times when she is mean, when she pushes or scratches. I worry that my discipline (stern voice, time-outs, coaching) isn't sufficient, that I'm not doing enough or will somehow mess up and turn her into a bully.

But, I know now, at least on some level, that I won't. She still acts out of anger sometimes. We all do, but she stops and thinks more often now. And, I think that the main reason she does is because, I'm there. The older she gets, the more I see her carrying my words with her. She hears my voice even when I'm not right by her side.

There are so many "rules" of parenting that people throw at you, but I think there's a lot to be said for just being there, in the moment -- to coach, to model the behavior you want to see in your child, and to have simple consequences in extreme situations -- if you misbehave, we leave.

Unfortunately, in this case, my kid received the "punishment" of leaving, even though I praised her for handling the situation well. So, next up -- me modeling some good "stand-up-for-ourselves" behavior.

What are your thoughts? Could I have handled this situation better?

(And a special thanks to my Facebook friends for all the great feedback!)

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