So we went to the children’s museum. My 4 year old, Eden, was playing outside on these fun twisty bike racks along with some other kids. The other kids decided to make a game of blocking her wherever she tried to go. Each time she tried to play, they would stand in front of her. She started to cry. She didn’t understand why they wouldn’t let her through. I gave her a hug and said, “I love you sweetheart, I don’t know why they were blocking you, maybe they thought they were playing a game, let’s go inside” and she grabbed my hand as we walked inside.
While playing in the music room, she went over to the pinball machine and waited for the boy who was currently using it to finish his turn. His dad encouraged him to play with something else after a few minutes and Eden started to play the game. You can rearrange different objects so that when the ball bounces around, it makes music. The boy came back. He didn’t like the way she had arranged the items so he climbed on top of the machine and moved things around. Then he took the ball out of her hand and told her he needed to test out the way it sounded before she could play with it.
She got frustrated. I could feel her little body start to tense and knew that big emotions were coming to the surface. I hugged her and said, “would you like to go play with something else?”. She agreed and we moved on.
Situations like this happened multiple times that day. They are pretty common with kids. Kids are learning how to interact with others, how to be patient, how to deal with someone doing something you don’t like. These are skills they need to practice as they get bigger.
As I was on the phone with my husband, telling him about how bad I felt for Eden, I started to get upset with the parents. “Why didn’t they intervene? Why didn’t they see what was happening? Why didn’t they teach their kids to be nice to mine?” As I talked through this, I also thought about helicopter parenting, I don’t want to be involved in every single situation, I need to let my kids learn how to handle all kinds of people. If I don’t want to monitor every single second of my kids lives, why should I expect other parents to do that? Obviously I want to be attentive and make sure my kids are being kind, but I can’t see everything, I can’t referee everything. I also realized I was blaming. This is a huge red flag for me that something else is going on.
I continued to talk about it and decided that I would handle those situations differently next time. The kid who climbed onto the pinball machine was not “bad”, his dad wasn’t a “bad parent”. It would’ve been easier for me if the other parent stepped in. It would’ve been easier if I could just stand back and watch.
Since other parents didn’t intervene, I picked the next easiest option. I walked away. I taught my daughter that when people bully you, play games that hurt your feelings, or take things from you, you walk away. Sometimes I think that’s the right move. Sometimes I think that’s better. That being said, I don’t want my daughters to grow up unable to address inappropriate behaviors because their whole lives they are shown that they should walk away. I could’ve told the little boy at the pinball machine, “hey buddy, you can have a turn as soon as she is done”. and asked him to return the ball. I could’ve modeled the behavior we practice at home.
I want to teach my daughters that it’s okay to tell someone that you are hurt by his or her actions. They practice this in our family, but if I don’t show them how to do this out of the house, how can I expect them to grow up understanding how to stand up for themselves? I want to teach them to respond to others with love, compassion and grace. I want them to know that they can say, “please don’t do that, I don’t like when you block my way”. I want those phrases to feel natural and normal. I don’t know if these situations will ever be easy. I do know that when I start to blame other parents, something bigger is happening in my heart and I need to think it through. I know that conflict is really hard for me, and I would rather walk away. I need to show my children how to be strong and kind. Otherwise my words mean nothing.
I’m not upset with myself for walking away. I’m glad that I had those moments to realize how to handle things in the future. I’m glad I didn’t act rudely towards the other families, I don’t think that helps. I’m glad I have a game plan for the future. I talked to Eden about what I would like to do next time and told her I was sorry for not standing up for her. I want her to stand up for people she cares about. I want the people around her to stand up for her. She’s worth standing for and I hope I never forget that.