Allow me to set the scene...
This afternoon in Charleston was beautiful--almost 80 degrees and sunny. We headed over to the James Island park so Loulie could get out some energy. There are two sides to the playground, a 2-5 year old and a 6-12 year old. The 6-12 is one of those play sets on stilts that has multiple slides and ladders. Underneath the slides, there are games on the stilts. Loulie wanders over to one of the stilts that has a piano and immediately starts laughing and pushing the buttons. (Bert and I are right behind her.) A five year old girl--we'll call her green shorts--comes up and starts playing next to Loulie. Within seconds another five year old girl, we'll call her The Spawn, comes out of nowhere and starts pushing and clawing green shorts knocking Loulie back in the process. Bert and I stand there sort of stunned before we can pull Loulie back towards us. I am thinking that the two girls have to know each other for the Spawn to feel so comfortable threatening green shorts but I am still feeling uncomfortable watching them fight. I grab Loulie who is still wanting to play with the buttons and say "No mam, you can't play with someone who isn't being nice to their friends."
Green shorts takes this opportunity to break free and head over to find her parents on the other side of the play yard and Spawn with no one left to torment walks away. So I let go of Loulie and she heads back to the piano. She isn't standing there five seconds (with Bert behind her and me on her right) when Spawn runs out of no where and slaps her. Bert immediately huddles around Loulie with a leg on each side while I bend over and tell the little girl not to lay a hand on my baby again.
Here is the shocker---the little girl does not run away or even move but leans towards Loulie AGAIN! I move to Loulie's left where the child is standing and say in my stearnest voice not to touch Loulie to which she still does not move. Keep in mind this is a matter of seconds, my heart is racing and this child is still leaning on Bert's arm so that he can't really move and looking at Loulie.
"Where is your mother?" (Blank stare.) "You need to go find you mama."
To which the child responds a defiant NO. By this time, Bert is trying to move Loulie away and I tell the child one last time not to dare touch my baby again and that she needs to go get her mother.
Well, the kid runs off and she and her mother round the ladder about the time Bert and I have gathered Loulie up. I never looked the mother in the eye mainly because I was too scared of what I would say. Bert tells me she gave me the once over but kind of shrank back when she saw the two of us with a one year old. (I'm pretty sure the child did not run over and admit that she had beat on a one year old but that a mean old lady got mad at her. I'm also pretty sure that once the mother saw the two of us and Loulie that things started to add up.)
As Bert and I crossed the playground we looked over to see the the girl thrashing around and repeatedly hitting the outside of a slide. Bert looked at me and said "that kid has problems."
But what do you do in a situation like this? I am serious, I need advice. I am the most nonconfrontational person but something flipped in me today when this kid attacked Loulie out of no where. I was uncomfortable when the Spawn was hitting Green Shorts but nothing like how I felt when I saw her go after my own baby. The thing about it was that Loulie could not defend herself against someone this old--she can hardly talk. And I have never seen a child totally unprovoked hit a younger child with two parents watching. It was scary! I think the smart thing to do would have been to immediately remove Loulie but how fair is that?--take away your child from the fun treat because a bully's parent isn't watching them torment everyone on the playground. On a much larger scale, isn't that what people did during the holocaust, the genocide in Rawanda, etc?--turn their attention elsewhere because they were scared to get involved. I know my child is not perfect and will do unkind things but I hope nothing ever as intentional and as disrespectful and as cruel as what I witnessed today.
As we walked away, I started to get anxious and paranoid (result of the adrenaline) when Bert said, "Well done Mama Bear."
"You think I did the right thing?"
I have been thinking on this for the past several hours on what my reaction could have taught Loulie and on what I want to teach Loulie--to turn the other cheek or that I will always be there to defend her or that she needs to fight her own battles. I'm not sure there is a right answer and regardless of my reaction, I know I would find a critic somewhere. But I do know this--if confronting a bully on behalf of my child might bring me criticism, then I don't think I'm out to win a popularity contest. There are a lot of things I will do wrong as a parent but protecting my child in an innocent situation is not one of them.
It is amazing how parenthood can be such a joy and then just suckerpunch you out of no where.
At least Bert has temporarily abandoned his title as most overprotective parent, that goes to helicoptor mom. Now I am going back to my bubble--I like it there. :)