It is the question we moms will all eventually ask ourselves when we see bad behavior from another child against our own: when is it my place to step in? How do I handle a situation when it is my own child at fault?
I would say that generally I’m a pretty laissez-faire mom; I prefer to give my kids plenty of space to make mistakes and handle arguments they may have with other kids on their own, with minimal input. Rarely do I like to intervene (unless there is a safety issue, of course). Kids need to learn that actions have consequences, both negative and positive. I also believe that the toddler-days are like a very important practice test, when we parents are able to supervise, guide, and teach. Then, we release them into the wild and watch them make only good decisions all of their days! Right?
But what do you do when you find yourself in a situation where you must step in?
One day, a little girl who I did not know bit my (very non-aggressive) son at the park. He was screaming and upset, understandably. The mom of this little girl casually walked up and asked what the problem was and I told her what had happened. She picked up her daughter and walked away without saying a word, all while I held my inconsolable son. NOT ONE WORD. I was dumb-founded. And when I left the park that day, I felt angry. I was angry at mom for not apologizing. I was angry at mom for not addressing her child about her actions. I was angry. Fuming, would be more appropriate.
But this is a complicated issue. Here’s what I’m thinking:
First of all, I want to yell at her and really give her a piece of my mind. I don’t want to get arrested.
Then I wonder if this child is vaccinated. I wonder if there is an emotional or behavioral problem with this child. I wonder if there is some piece to this puzzle that is contributing to moms behavior that I can’t possibly know. Like what kind of day/week/month/life of parenting she is having. Her day could have been a doozy. It could have kicked her bum. She could be struggling more than I could ever imagine. This could be the tenth time her daughter has bit someone this week and she is at a loss as to what to do. She’s numb.
And as I thought it through a little more, my anger began to turn into compassion. It became clear to me that we just don’t have all the facts as to what others are thinking or going through. Maybe she simply didn’t care, I don’t know.
But I do know that I can only do me.
I can remove my son from a dangerous situation, I can talk to him about how we treat people, and we move on. Should I have said more? Do we deserve the benefit of the doubt sometimes?
My oldest once bit a much larger child at the Children’s Museum. It was completely provoked as the older child ripped a truck out of his hands and turned to walk away. My son bit him on the shoulder. I was 15 feet away with my youngest and I didn’t see it, so some nearby parents filled me in. The older boy’s mother was no where to be found. I helped him find his mom and I took my son to go apologize to the boy and his mother. And then a few minutes later when I was struggling to figure out the correct response to my son (do we leave? do we have a time out? I’m at a loss) the mom stormed over and showed me the bite marks and was furious. It was completely humiliating.
Oh gosh that’s tough, I’m so sorry! I think we moms need to afford each other more grace and compassion. Especially when you took steps to apologize with your son. They’re kids! These things will inevitably happen. I would’ve done the same thing in your shoes.