A week or so ago we were experiencing a pretty great day. The weather let up from a cold spell, and the girls were behaving wonderfully. The universe was giving the green light to make a much-needed trip to the park. We packed up and made our way to one of our favorites.
It sits close to town and has an abundance of trees, open space, and most important, a good-sized park with a fence around to keep kiddos from escaping. My favorite feature. It is also known to be the hangout of people who march to the beat of their own drummer. This town calls them hippies, and I suppose for all intents and purposes they are. But, they are certainly their own brand of hippie. It’s not unusual to see at this park someone walking across a tight rope to your left, a unicycler to your right, and a band of hula-hooping gothic-looking women before you. It’s hard not to hum “Looking out my back door” by CCR in your head as you walk to the park gate.
The kids park itself is typically filled with friendly Berkinstock-toting moms, and it isn’t uncommon to hear a couple of different languages being spoken, which is nice. The benches are also perfectly angled to view the exercise equipment across the way, which, on its good days, is populated by shirtless men. Yes, it is a good park.
On this sunshiny day, these were the inhabitants I expected, and I didn’t pay much attention to the other park visitors as the girls ran in separate directions claiming their own park equipment. Maddie quickly found two little boys her age in the playhouse and busily began her pretend housework. Without warning or provocation, one of the little boys shoved Maddie with all his might out of the playhouse. Not a harmless toddler push but a driving blow that had all of his energy and anger behind it. Maddie propelled out of the playhouse and landed on her tush looking up at the boy, shocked. There was a long pause as we both stared at the boy open mouthed, surprised by his unwarranted aggression. The little boy scowled down at her.
I picked her up as she began to cry and comforted her, looking around for his mother. I spotted her on the other side of the playground on the bench. Her face sported the same scowl as her son, and she was a couple of times my size. No, I wouldn’t be saying anything to her this time. Maddie calmed down and began telling the boy about her displeasure with his actions, moving toward him like she was going to give him more than a piece of her mind. I picked her up again, explaining that we don’t hit or push. In our family, we use our words, pick our battles carefully, and leave with our heads held high. There is no reason for it ever to come to violence, and I certainly don’t plan to teach my kids that hitting is bad and then let them do it in certain cases. Hitting is bad. Period.
We retreated to the other side of the playground and quickly resumed play. The girls had found some balloons that had been left over from a birthday party and were playing happily. Then I saw him coming, as if in slow motion. It was reminiscent of a football game when the live feed is slowed to show an opposing team tackle the quarterback from the side. Maddie was left lying on the sidewalk, again too confused to cry. I was mad. I scooped her up. “That was not nice” was all I could get out. What words do you use with an aggressive toddler that is not your own? Riley told the little boy that he shouldn’t be mean to her sister and we walked away. Nothing from his mom.
Again I moved them to the other side of the playground and again the little boy ran in a rage across the playground to attack Maddie. This time, I was able to grab her before he could make contact. Maddie at this point had had enough as well. She was ready to fight, and I was questioning my no violence stance. Should I be teaching them something different? Would there be experiences in their lives that they would need to use more than just their words? I’ve never experienced any, so my inclination is to say no, but then, perhaps I was just lucky. I’ve also never experienced a two-year-old boy so angry that he would seek out a toddler on the playground just to knock her down. Deep in internal debate, we packed up and headed toward the car.
As we were leaving, I saw the little boy interact with his mom. He must have been doing something else that was bad because she had a hold of his hands and was smacking them as she yelled at him. The same anger as he had shown. I knew that was likely the case but seeing it reaffirmed my thoughts. That’s why you don’t get into a fight with bullies. There is no reason to affirm what they already think about the world. Maybe showing them restraint in walking away will show them something new. Either way, your staying clear of their aggression which is no doubt much more than yours. And so I stick to it. Use your words and walk (or run) away. If nothing else, it should cut down on hospital bills.