February 15, 2008

Someone else's kids

Anna got beat up at playdate this week. Not face-crushed-and-bleeding beat up, more just beat ON, I guess. A little boy with a toy, but solid, hammer whacked her on the head with it several times before I got there. I yanked it out of his hands, said, "Hitting is NOT ok," stalked over to his mom, gave her the hammer, and then headed back to cuddle and comfort my totally shocked child.

And I'm still furious, almost surprisingly so. I mean, it's not like Anna doesn't have scuffles with other kids all the time, of course she does. The nature of children is to lack impulse control, so it's a given that things get a little wacky from time to time. And Anna is, though I love her, a total drama queen. Sometimes she has fits because, I kid you not, someone looked at her. It's frustrating to have a child who has such easy tears because sometimes it's hard to tell when something is really wrong and when she's just having an Anna Moment.

But this incident was not one of those moments. This is the same little boy who decided to stab her repeatedly with a stick last summer at another playdate, leaving scabs on her tummy. This is the same little boy who pushes, shoves and grabs from her (and other kids) every chance he gets. This is the same little boy who I stopped moments before he shoved Anna off the top of the play equipment last fall.

And yesterday, he just walked up to her, gave her a shove and, when she didn't move, just started HAMMERING ON HER HEAD.

But what gets me the most riled up is that his mom didn't DO anything. She didn't get up, she didn't say anything to him, she just gave him a little hug and sent him on his way again. The she told a little story about how cute it was that he was always trying to fix things with the hammer, even other kids.

What?! It's cute that he hits other kids with a hammer? Huh?!

But here's where I have to take a deep breath and back down from my Mamma Bear instincts. Because we are talking about some else's child. This means there are different standards, rules, regulations and expectations. Fragile ground, indeed. This topic makes walking on eggshells sounds sturdy.

What to do? At the time, I said nothing to the woman, which I regret. Instead, I simply comforted my child and tried to diffuse the situation. She cried for half an hour, screaming and completely hysterical. She talked ALL DAY about being scared and being hurt and not liking playdate and the mean boy who hurts her. This morning I said we had to get ready to go, and she said, "I don't want to go to playdate, Mama, I don't like playdate." She was relieved when I said we were just going to school!

I know I can't protect Anna from everything, I know she needs to fight her own battles and stand up for herself. I didn't expect her to have to actually, physically, defend herself at the tender age of 3, though, and I don't think she should have to. Is it wrong to expect other parents to hold their child accountable for unacceptable behavior? What if they don't agree with you on what is unacceptable? What if they think your child was "asking for it"?

In my opinion, (cuz ya know, this is my blog, right?), it doesn't matter what someone did to irritate the attacker. Hitting is not an acceptable response. I'm even hedgy about hitting back in self-defense, but that may change as my girls grow up. At this point, I simply tell Anna to say, "Stop it," and walk away. If the other kid won't let her leave, she is to get an adult.

She's still working on standing up for herself and more often then not responds emotionally (and loudly). Occasionally, though, she has really diffused situations with good words and actions and it makes me proud. Yesterday she was too surprised and scared to do anything. She just lay on the floor, trying to cover her head and screaming.

I'm still upset because playdates verge on sacred to me; they offer time away, time to talk to other moms, time for my kids to interact, and time to get them as tuckered out as possible so they'll take an extra long nap. So when my daughter tells me she's afraid and starts crying when I say we're going to playdate, it really upsets all of us.

What to do, indeed?

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