My son got punched in the eye. This happened twice this week by two different boys.
We went to my niece’s graduation party. It was at a park, held in the afternoon on a cold but sunny day. The pavilion was in a wind tunnel so the huddled masses fled to the outskirts, sitting in chairs (if you were the sort to plan ahead) or on the pavement (if you were from my immediate family) where the concrete was warmed from the sun and toasted our buns. We must have looked an odd group gathering just on the edges, segregated by family tree.
A park was a small path’s distance away, so the older nieces and nephews took charge of the youngers. This was the first year that I was confident enough to let my youngest go with his cousins, without me. I want my kids to grow up with freedom like I had, yet, and yet…
My husband and I sat tucked close together, enjoying the sun-strip flocking. People sat single file, so aside from an occasional chat, you weren’t forced into it. Trust me, that’s a better situation all around. We sat close, me drinking a can of beer which was set in a plastic cup for discretion, kickin’ it old school.
I went to check on the kids, my two older ones had left for the large handicapped portapotty, and sure enough, the youngest had to go. We dashed across the field with just enough time to do a quick cleanup before setting my youngest’s tush down on the seat. We could hear the older two, in the adjacent portapotty, doing God knows what, but laughing hysterically about it. I didn’t want them to know I was in the next one. They were doing something they shouldn’t by their laughter, but sometimes you just don’t stop the laughter.
They were out before us, and the toddler and I followed so he could show me all of his climbing abilities. “Look Mommy! Look!” over and over, and I did not taking my eyes off of him. Up and down, over around, over again and on and on until my brother-in-law’s wife made a beeline for me. She and I have had our difficulties in the past but we each adore the other’s children and treat them like our own. She got an inch from my face.
“That little kid just hit J. in the face, a couple of times! I went to J. to make sure he’s okay, and I don’t know what happened, but I thought you should know.” J. was riding on one of those four-person, bouncy, see-saw things. He sat holding his left eye, not crying but sat with a stunned expression. My fourteen year old nephew sat on one of the horses staring at him (oh, yes, that’d be the nephew I love but who was supposed to be watching the youngers) and one other boy. The boy was a year younger and from the other side of the family. He sat defiant, arms folded, staring down my son. My son appeared to be holding in a cry, but too confused to even do that.
“That one? What’s his name?”
“In gray. Name’s T.”
I marched over to my son and asked if he was okay. He was quiet and the thing about his expression was that he looked defeated. He looked as if something had just happened and nothing could be done about it. I looked at his eye and there was a small scratch and some swelling. “I don’t know what happened. He just came over and poked me in the eye.”
Mama bear was in the house.
I turned to the other boy. “You do not hit people. Do you understand me?” The boy scowled at me and turned away. Nope, sorry, I’m not that mom.
“T. Look. At. Me.” He slowly turned his head, his confidence deflated. “You do not hit anyone and you certainly do not hit my son. Am I making myself clear?” He looked at the ground and nodded. I went back to J. who was still putting pressure on his eye with the heel of his palm.
“Let me see it again. Let’s go get some ice for it, maybe we can keep it from swelling.” J. nodded and we walked off to the pavilion. I got some ice, wrapped it in a napkin and sat down with J.
“Mommy, I really don’t know what happened.”
“J., no one is allowed to hit you. Ever. If that ever happens again, you find me.” At this he started laughing.
“Well, I was pretty lucky. I didn’t know you were right there!”
Yesterday we were out front playing. The three kids took a walk down to Mrs. Pond, as the drainage pond at the end of our street is affectionately called and came back as my three kids and an extra boy on a scooter. The boy is a sweet kid, but he is a handful. He was the oops baby, has parents who love him, but perhaps have given up a bit. He runs wild. He’s my son’s age, yet has already had detention twice (kindergarten, mind you), and the mom got two calls in one week because he hit two kids on the bus. One was a fifth grader. She says he’s acting out for attention. True. She says he and his older brother are always smacking each other around. I say nothing, but am tempted to say that might not be something that is agreeing with him.
The boys are playing, and as is the case when he stops by, within minutes I’m yelling in my mom voice to stop, they are being too rough, no, they are not allowed to try to squash the flowers/trees/plantings in my neighbor’s yard. I yell at them both, but my son isn’t doing it. It just isn’t good form around here to yell at someone else’s kid. It becomes a problem when their parent is standing and watching and saying nothing.
The mom relayed a story to me about the week prior, when her son was playing with some water and dirt. Her next door neighbor, a nice but strict-seeming man (who has a son so he’s not unfamiliar with boys energy levels), was driving down the road after just getting his car washed. Her son threw mud and rocks at the car. He stopped the car, got out, and went ballistic. I said to her, well, that was probably good, no? Did it at least scare him a little? Her response was no, her son wasn’t disturbed by anything. He’s six years old.
So the two boys were playing in my yard, her son under a small kid parachute, my kid on top of him tickling him. You could hear them both laughing so we didn’t watch too closely.
The next we know, her son is on his scooter and zooming across the street to their house.
“Where are you going?” She shouts as I’m watching for cars as the whole neighborhood has learned to do. This kid has been in and out of traffic since he could walk.
I look over and J. is sitting on the ground with his hand on his face, the same expression I had seen but three days earlier. I head over to him, she tries to catch up with her son.
“He hit me. Not once, but he kept hitting me.”
“What? Why? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“We were playing and then he came out from under the parachute and he started hitting me. And not like jokey either. He was doing it mean. Really mean.”
We were on the way inside, and I told him that I didn’t think they were really a good match. Nobody had the right to hit him…the same thing I said before. He nodded, but it broke my heart. I sent him in, and was picking up all the toys, when my neighbor and her son came back.
“We have to get this out.” She said. I called J. back from inside the house, and he stood there like a kid waiting to get in trouble.
“J. said that E. hit him.”
“I didn’t hit him. I smacked him across the face a couple of times.” There was the defiance. Oh man. My patience for other people’s children was really being stretched. “I told him to get up and he didn’t.”
His mom talked to him in calm tones. I talked to J.
“Mommy, I didn’t hear him. I didn’t. I swear.”
She smiled and said, okay boys, shake hands, which they did and they did it hard so began laughing with each other. We said goodnight.
I told my husband, when I thought J. was out of hearing range, that if this kept up we were going to sign J. up for Kung Fu. I had been tossing the idea around anyway. I think martial arts is great discipline, and a great art for children. I told him that if it happened again, I may have to institute Plan B. Hit the kid back. My husband, laughed knowing I was kidding. My son responded, “Okay, but Mommy? Make sure you just use the code words, Plan B, that way they won’t know what’s coming.” Whoops. Wrong parenting lesson right there.
As I was laying in bed with the youngest, my older son on the bunk over our heads, I told him I was proud of him for not hitting back. I told him he should never, ever be afraid to tell me, even if he didn’t think he did the right thing. Even if he had heard him say “Get off.”, he could tell me. I told him we’d reach out to some of the kids in his class that he liked so much and we’d have them over to play. He immediately began making his list.
I also told him that E. and he were not allowed to play any kind of fighting/light sabers game. And that if it happened again, he wouldn’t be allowed to come over. My son said he didn’t really want to play with him anyway right now. The look on his face was too mean.
“I’m really proud of you that you didn’t hit him back though. That had to be hard when somebody smacks you in the face. You’re turning into a real man, buddy.”
“Mommy, if you hit a bully back, you become the bully.” I sat silent. Stunned.
“Where’d you learn that?”
“Assembly at school. It’s pretty important.”
“As are you, buddy.”
From the mouths of babes.