Sooner or later, I guess, every parent faces this situation: what do you do when another person -- someone you don't even know -- disciplines your child
JP was occupied today with moving his workshop, so I looked for fun things to do with Fly. I found pony rides at a nearby park. We got in a long line and waited as several children from a birthday party had their turn. Eventually, I couldn't hold Fly any more. I set him down, and Fly got antsy waiting in line. He swung the gate back and forth (I made him stop when he started swinging it too hard) and he tried to climb over the fence (I made him stop climbing at the bottom rung of the fence so he wouldn't fall over or step in front of a pony).
Then he took up playing in the sand in the corner near a little girl of at least 4. Drawing lines with his finger and sifting handfuls of sand were fine, I figured, and he wasn't bothering anybody.
The next thing I know, the little girl whose parents were in line just ahead of me walked past, and Fly follows her with handfuls of sand.
The dad standing next to me grabbed Fly -- with both hands -- and yelled, "Knock it off!"
"Don't talk to my child that way!" I said, snatching Fly back from the guy.
"He's throwing sand at my daughter," the man said.
"He didn't throw sand. He's holding sand, but he didn't throw it."
"Just because you didn't see it doesn't mean he didn't to it," the man said.
"Believe me, if I see my child acting up, I'm the first one to step in," I said.
"You need to control your child!"
"Oh, thank you," I said, "I never thought of that before."
"Look, my daughter's shirt is dirty. If he wasn't throwing sand, then how did it get dirty?"
"She was playing in the sand, too," I said.
"No, she wasn't."
"You need to apologize," the mom finally piped up.
"Yeah, you need to apologize," the dad said.
"No, you need to apologize for treating my child that way," I said.
A few seconds later, I heard the dad mutter, "It's the parents who are the problem."
I could have responded to that a dozen different ways, but I just decided to drop it. I'm sure we'd already made quite a scene in the pony ride line.
So, truly, Fly did not
throw sand during or after the time their daughter walked past me. And if the parents had seen Fly throwing sand before
their daughter walked by, then why didn't they speak up immediately when the two of them were still in the corner -- why did they wait until Fly was in front of us? I'm not convinced they saw him throwing sand.
If the parents had taken a less confrontational approach, I might
have apologized for Fly. After all, I told myself later, if a friend told me Fly had misbehaved while I wasn't looking for a moment, I would have said I was sorry and spoken with Fly about what he'd done.
But do not grab my child and yell at him
, especially when it's clear you don't really know if he did what you accuse him of doing.
Fly ended up not wanting to go for a pony ride. He didn't want to sit on the pony. He didn't even want to touch the pony. All the waiting in line, and the drama, for nothing.
So we went to the playground, where Fly took up playing in the sand (again) with some toys that belonged to another child. I asked the parents if it was OK for him to play with the toys, and they told me yes and remarked how polite Fly was and how nicely he was sharing. That made me feel tons better.
I just don't know how some people feel they have the right to police other people's kids by laying hands on them and yelling at them.
So what should I do next time a Parent Cop confronts Fly so I can handle the situation more gracefully? Have you ever been in a situation like this?
Labels: motherhood, parenting, up for discussion