Moms and Dads, please let me know how I SHOULD have handled this situation, in which I recently enraged a mother with my handling of an incident with her son. I am totally unsatisfied with what happened and I'd like to learn another way to get through situations like this. I don't usually hang with mothers or children like the ones I encountered last week, but they are neighbours and our children go to school with each other and play together a lot. Normally things go fine, but there was this incident last week:
My wife and I had some neighbours over; three couples and their children including ours, playing nicely. I was strolling down a hall when my leg buckled and I was nearly dropped to one knee. I felt like I had been shot in the ankle from behind. My head spun backwards so I could see my killer before I died; instead I saw a 5 year old boy who we’ll call Damian to preserve his anonymity.
Damian stared up from a little scooter that he had slammed into me with. Judging from the pain, he must have taken quite a running start before hitting me. Damian smiled.
Some secret information that Damian’s parent's don't seem to know:
Secret Fact Number One
Damian is a pathological liar. He has no problems at all in hurting other kids, stealing their stuff, cheating at games if he’s losing, and other such things. If this causes trouble then, when momma comes by, Damian produces tears at will and can make up some fantastic victim story in which the rest of the people were ganging up on him. Momma, even if she seemed to plainly see the situation unfold, is nearly always seduced into siding with Damian to criticize the other children.
Secret Fact Number Two
I play with the kids more than the parents do. The parents maximum exertion level is to walk. They walk to the park, walk to our house, walk to school. After they walk they rest. They rest on the bench, the couch, the dining-room chairs. Damian's parents are always resting. I'm the one playing tag, monsters, showing them how to throw, how to ride bikes, how to run fast and far, how to climb, making movies with them, playing dressup, teaching them how to sneak up on things, doing magic, hosting kids-shows in the basement, all that kind of thing. If I'm around, the kids beg me to join them in the games. I think that earns me some consideration from Damian's mother. She should be able to put two and two together to conclude that her child caused some trouble. 99% of the time I'm playing with her kids, so why is reasonable to assume that I'm the one who was suddenly targeting her kid for no reason? Doesn't make sense to me.
“Owww, that hurt”, I cried.
Damian’s smile grew along with my pain. The scooter was still on my leg. I pulled it away.
“You hurt me. Say sorry,” I demanded.
He started giggling. In that instant I couldn't stand the kid.
“No, you’re done with this.” I told him, up close in his face. I physically lifted him off the scooter, put him on the ground and took the scooter back to the kids’ room. Nobody was going to hurt me in my house with my own toy, then laugh at me.
As I rejoined the other kids I heard his mom call out from elsewhere in the house, “Damian, come here.”
“Ah”, I thought, “He went crying to his mom. Good.”
To my shock and awe, young Damian came shooting into the room on the scooter again, not more than one minute after I had taken it. What the h*** was going on! Must've been his mom.
I looked around for his mom. She was sitting at the table, vibrating. I walked over there to find out if she gave it back to him but she spoke first.
“If you have anything to say about my child you say it to me.” she said, croaking from emotion.
“Sure, he hit me with the scooter and when I asked him to apologize he just laughed at me.” I said.
“No. It was only an accident, I saw it.” she said looking like she was fighting tears. “I never treat your kids like that.”
Now I was confused and embarrassed. Did I do something bad to the kid? I tried to think back. Did I push him, rough him up, call him names? Did I? I didn’t think so, but since she was so choked up I couldn’t be sure now. Maybe I had done something. But what? I felt like she was accusing me of something terrible.
“I took the scooter only after he laughed about hurting me.” I explained, thinking she had a problem with me taking the toy away.
“No, you talk to me.” she demanded loudly. I was mortified and suddenly didn’t want to talk about this in public any longer, so I apologized to her and then shortly afterward to Damian. Damian didn’t care, he was playing again within seconds. The mother later said it was ok, but I could tell that she was harbouring a burning rage.
After they all left I asked my wife if I’d done anything wrong. She said “Yes, it’s not your kid.”
I asked her if she saw what happened. She hadn't, but she heard and could confirm that I definitely raised my voice and spoke harshly. I explained that the kid hurt me badly, which is probably why I was so loud, although I didn’t notice the volume myself at the time. I didn't scream but I sure did raised my voice. My wife told me she totally understood and, although I didn’t handle it right, I didn’t handle it that badly either. Had I done it without raising my voice, she told me, it would have been fine. We both agree that Damian is a rotten kid. My wife thinks that the mom will never speak with us again, although the father didn’t even seem to notice.
My view: There was no accounting on her side for her child hurting me and then laughing -- though apparently she saw the whole thing (I think she saw nothing except perhaps me taking the toy away after hearing me demand the apology). Don’t I have the right to express myself to the child and the right to take my own toy from him if he’s misusing it, especially if he's hurting people? As it is, since I apologized, I reinforced her belief that I did something wrong. To boot, there I was again within about ten minutes, on the floor playing "Trap Machine" with six kids including hers while she sat fuming at the dining table and the father drank beer in the kitchen. She and her kid got apologies and she's still angry, but the one who was actually injured got none and feels like terrible for playing with her rotten kid when she won't. Now that I think back I really wish I had just tossed her and her child out of the house.
I'm not one to act very differently in one situation or another. What I'm like at home is what I'm like everywhere, more or less, and there are some things that I don't take at home. One thing is that anyone who harms another person has got to make it right. If my kids hurt another kid they have to check if the other kid is ok and apologize, accident or not. It's not even possible to imagine that they hurt someone and then laugh at the injured person -- that's what insane people do.
Debi from Truth About Motherhood already advised me pretty well, noting that the kid had Nellie Olson (the pictured TV brat from Little House on the Prairie) Syndrome. Debi said that no matter how right I was and how wrong the kid was, it is in a mother's DNA to protect her child no matter what. Debi said I should have gone to the mother and then, unless she dealt with the kid, never invite her back again. Either that or trip the little monster later (with a smiley face!)
- Where did I go wrong?
- What should I have done?
- What was going on in that mother’s head to have such emotion and to give back the scooter to her maniacal son?
- What should I do next time I see her?