I’m sorry. I am really sorry you were having such a bad day.
It was last month, at the indoor play area for children under six years old. You were wearing your infant, and your little boy (was he about three years old?) was running around letting off some steam. It’s been a long winter, after all.
My two-year-old daughter was there too. She loved the tiny slides, play kitchens and giant building blocks. She was nervous about the ball pit.
While she was, once again, escaping my attempt to put her in the ball pit, she spotted a large doll house in the corner. She went over and began playing happily, rearranging the miniature furniture.
Your son toddled right over and punched her in the face.
My daughter was pretty upset. Although I stayed calm, I was pretty upset, too. She was shocked that this could happen to her. But she wasn’t really hurt — just scared. She went through a nervous period during playdates after this. If she was physically hurt, I might feel differently about the whole thing.
You stopped breastfeeding, dropped a stack of papers everywhere (Are you a teacher? A part-time lawyer? Maybe a writer like me?), and spilled the entire contents of your diaper bag. You prioritized putting your son in a time-out over everything else.
I’m sorry that I didn’t feel comfortable putting him in a time-out for you.
I’m sorry that, as a society, we don’t co-parent. We’ve lost the “community of fellow moms” that ruled our grandparents’ era. We don’t discipline other peoples’ children, and we certainly don’t correct them too loudly.
I saw you attempt this while balancing a coffee (was it really only your first one of the day, at noon? That’s crazy). You were strapped to your tiny, screaming, hungry infant and trying to explain to your son why he cannot punch people.
I thought you did a good job explaining. You followed what all the so-called experts suggest parents say. You even got down to his eye level to explain. You attempted to invoke empathy, and you laid out future consequences.
I’m sorry it didn’t work.
I’m sorry that your little stinker punched another toddler a few minutes later. I’m sorry that he didn’t listen to you. Because you truly tried — I witnessed it.
I’m sorry that you had to drag him out, kicking and screaming, from a play area that just cost you $15.00 and might have been your last hope for a good day.
I saw your eyes start to tear up as you left. I know you were embarrassed. I know you were wondering what I thought of the situation. If I thought you were a terrible person. I could see a million things going through your mind, and I bet you even worried about what kind of child you were raising here.
You shouldn’t be embarrassed. You are raising a little boy who will not punch or hit in the future. You were there, and you were working hard.
I’m sorry you had such a tough day as this little boy’s mom, but I’m glad you showed up. You were present when I’m sure all you wanted to do was hide in the snack bar area, you were calm when I’m sure you wanted to explode, and you left when he escalated.
To the mom whose son punched my daughter — your son will be okay. You are working really hard at this parenting gig, and that effort is how I know you will raise a respectful little boy.