It’s been a while.
This week my almost-two-and-a-half year old got attacked by a bigger kid at soft play. He’s a pretty gentle boy-very physical and good at jumping and climbing but not particularly tactile with other children. Nothing like this has ever happened before to us or any of our friends children so its been a bit of a shock.
On sharing the photos of his scratched up face the overwhelming reaction from other parents (mums in particular) was that of incredulity that I didn’t go ‘all mama bear’ or ‘punch her [the mums] face in’.
The soft play where the incident happened is quite small and in a local garden centre cafe. It’s quite well set up so that it’s separate from the main cafe and parents can take drinks and cake in so they can supervise their children appropriately. Most the seats were taken when we arrived so we ended up in the corner where visibility isn’t very good. There were quite a few parents in the play area with their children so we stayed seated next to it. Every now and then we got up to check if we couldn’t see the children and a friend of ours was sat inside at the bit where our vision was blocked by the slide.
Suddenly there was screaming. We both stopped and looked at each other, grateful that it wasn’t one of our kids. Worried that my child could have caused the crying I went to investigate to find that noise was indeed my child.I’ve never heard him sound like it! My friend had managed to drag him out of the ball pool having realised that a child had his hands around R’s neck and was on top of him.
I thanked my friend, and she told me which child but wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. I took R out for a cuddle and milk and we investigated his wounds. The friend I was visiting with popped over to have a check on her son but all seemed fine. A few moments later, he’s being ‘saved’ from the same child who was grabbing out at him. J crawled in (despite being heavily pregnant) to console her child too. The mother of the boy reluctantly climbed in too and muttered a perfunctory ‘sorry’. J pointed out that he hasn’t actually hurt her child but had hurt R. Her response was ‘Well he’s two and a half, what do you want me to do?’
A moment later, smiling, she walked towards me. ‘Here it comes, an apology’ I thought. She walked straight past mine and my sobbing bleeding child to go look in the netting at the end to watch her child. Oh. Well that’s something.
We stayed a while after that. The mother was overheard telling het child ‘mind out, there are babies in the over twos section’. Despite all or children being two, and very capable.
Children do stuff that you can’t predict or always control before it’s too late. I get that. But there’s certain things I expect the parent to do regardless.
1. If you know your child has a proclivity for violence, you watch them like a hawk. This was clearly not an isolated incident and this child seemed experienced and persistent in his violence.
2. If a child is wailing at soft play, regardless of whether you think it’s your child or not, you go check it out just in case. Esp with point one in mind.
3. If there’s any chance your child was involved in making another child cry, regardless of whether you think it might have been an accident or not, you suit down and have a chat with them.
4. If you find out they have been involved in hurting another child, they need to be taken aside, away from the fun thing they’re enjoying to talk about behaviour and consequences.
5. If they have hurt another child, it is at least the parents job to approach the parents of the other child and acknowledge it and apologise.
So why didn’t I approach her and go mad?
Firstly, I was so focused on my baby. He doesn’t cry a lot and was genuinely very upset and hurt. At that moment that was all that mattered to me, song whatever I could to make him feel better. Secondly, I didn’t see the incident. I can only speculate based on what my (very reliable) friend saw. I doubt know the child or parent. I don’t know what they’ve been through that day. I don’t know what kind of journey they’ve been on to this exact point in time. I don’t know how I would feel if that was me. I’d had a difficult morning with R, if he’d then attacked another child and then the parent had come for me it would have likely broken me. And finally, with her offhand and passive aggressive manner for handling my friend when she mentioned that her soon had hurt mine, yes, I might have gone a bit crazy at her. And that’s not an example that I want to set. My son showed me a great example by not retaliating, so let me do the same back.