Monday, January 5, 2009

Uncharted Territory

Just a warning: this is a longish post, but PLEASE read it as I am really looking for advice.

So this morning Grasshopper and I attended our monthly MOMS Club officers meeting. These always consist of us moms sitting around a table trying to plan all that needs planning for our group while the kids run amuck. We take turns leaping from the table to stop little fingers from being slammed in piano lids and the like, and also doling out snacks since toddlers cannot go more than 15 minutes without a snack, apparently.

Today, one of our members ( a woman I'm crazy about & who always makes me laugh) needed to bring her older son (age 5 1/2) since kindergarten doesn't start back until tomorrow. Her younger son (age almost 3) is an absolute doll and one of my favorite kids to expose Grasshopper to. Having this older boy (who I'm going to call Earl) attend greatly changed the group dynamic.

The kids who attend our meeting usually bring a handful of toys each so that things are not too terribly boring for them while they wait for us moms to decide what we want to do next month. Before Grasshopper and I came he loaded up some toys, specifically four of his small Cars (the movie) race cars that are prized possessions into his backpack. As Grasshopper is 2, we regularly have conversations about sharing. I told him that he had to share these toys with his buddies or nobody was going to get to play with them, including him. He acknowledged his understanding, and off we went.

For the first little while, Grasshopper was pretty good about sharing his toys, even Lightning McQueen, the be-all end-all race car. But then Earl got ahold of all 4 of Grasshopper's cars and was refusing to part with any of them for my child. I intervened and suggested that they each play with two of the cars, but Earl wasn't having any of that. At this point his Mom noticed what was going on and sent him off to play with something else and an admonishment about how he is a big boy and knows better.

After a few more sharing-related issues, I made the decision to pack up all of Grasshopper's toys because I was sick of hearing about who had possession of what. I had Grasshopper help me put his toys into the backpack and then I sat with it in my lap for the rest of the meeting.

Soon thereafter I was approached by Earl who said, "Your son just took that car from Sally!" Pointing behind me to where Grasshopper was indeed playing with a little blue car, but no child named Sally seemed to have a problem with it. I said, "Well Earl, I didn't see what happened, but if Sally wants the car then perhaps she should ask Grasshopper for it."

Earl walked away and I attempted to return my attention to the meeting. But that niggling Mom-sense had me swiveling in my seat repeatedly to see what was happening behind me, which as it turns out was this:

Andy (Sally's 3 year old brother) attempting to rip the car from Grasshopper's hands while being encouraged by Earl.

Andy succeeding in taking the car from Grasshopper by shoving him violently to the floor.

Earl standing over my fallen son and telling Andy, "That's right, you SHOW HIM!"

This is uncharted territory for me Dear Internets, and I'm wondering how best I might have handled it? What is a mother to do in this situation? Do I confront that kid? Turn to his mother? Ignore it because bullying is an unfortunate fact of life?

Please help me readers, I need your comments.


Mir said...

Oh GOOD LORD. That sort of stuff drives me insane.

Bullying IS an unfortunate fact of life, but accepting it is NOT. Your options are to either:
1) Make Earl's mom aware and ask her to intervene.
2) Deal with Earl yourself.
3) Simply retreat.

It sounds like Earl's mom is generally aware that his behavior can be inappropriate, but that she just wasn't paying enough attention to what was actually happening. Deciding whether or not to ask for her involvement depends upon the relationship you have with her.

Similarly, speaking to him on your own (as you did when telling him that Sally could ask for the car back) is tricky, depending on your relationship with his mom. There's nothing wrong with what you did, at all, but if you were to scold him for bullying, his mom would likely become offended.

While I don't usually advocate doing nothing (option 3), it could be that in this particular instance, your bafflement actually did you a favor. It sounds like you won't have to deal with him often (ever?), and it may not be worth risking the peace with his mom to make a stink, unfortunately. It'd be one thing if he was a classmate, but this sounds like an isolated incident.

But should you find yourself in a similar situation in the future, I personally wouldn't hesitate to LOUDLY tell Grasshopper that "Some children play far too rough, and Earl has such a hard time being gentle, we're going to just stay away from him this time." If his mom gets into a snit over there, enlighten her about what happened today.

I'm sorry Grasshopper had a hard morning. :(

Anonymous said...

I don't think I can say it any better than Mir. I agree with her 100% I myself am a pretty nonconfrontational person--I prefer to just keep the peace since my relationships with the mommies are more important to me than how I feel about their kids. Of course, it becomes a different story when one of their kids gets physical with mine. It really is a tough situation because you don't want to let that sort of thing go unaddressed but at the same time, you hope to preserve your relationship with the parent. You never want to make it seem like you are questioning someone's parenting skills. Did Andy's mom do anything about her son? Did Earl's mom say anything? Ugh, that's so frustrating. Poor Grasshopper...he sounds like such a sweet boy. A two-year old that can share well? Wow. That's impressive! As you've seen, FIVE year olds have a hard time sharing! (This is actually normal...although at this age they SHOULD know better and at least be able to be reasoned with.)

In my experience, I've found that the best way to handle these issues is to just deal with the KIDS myself and wait/hope for the other mom to jump in as well. I only do this if bullying or big tears are involved, as I think it's important to let kids figure some stuff out themselves, and like you said, disagreements, bullying etc are a part of life. I don't like to referee, BUT if I see my child being the victim, I will remove her and put the focus on my child...I make a fuss over her asking "Are you ok? What happened? etc" making sure other mom and mean kid hear me--that way they are made aware but no one is attacking them back. Also, this gives them the chance to jump in and address the situation if they wish. (and if they don't, well, that sucks, but I've also found that a lot of times, it's just embarrassment or not knowing how to handle it that prevents moms from dealing with their unruly kids. I like to just assume the mom will whoop butts when they leave--lol!) In the meantime, focusing on your own child takes the attention away from the bully (which is usually what he/she is looking to get, so don't give them the satisfaction) and gives you a chance to comfort your child and let them know that what happened was not ok. This is what works for me...hope that helps somewhat.

Meantime, hopefully you won't have to deal with Master Earl again anyway. Sorry that happened. Hugs to Grasshopper!

natasha said...

Oh my goodness Mir & nuzzie your comments are longer than my post!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

To answer a couple of questions:

1) No, we don't see Earl too often, primarily at whole-club holiday parties and the like. I honestly didn't expect this kind of behavior from him. But then, I don't expect it from anyone...

2) No, Andy & Earl's mothers missed the entire thing. Which I probably would have had there not been so many little things leading up to it that I was paying close attention. Grasshopper is not a screamer, and he (like me), seemed primarily to be shocked and confused about how to proceed!

Dysd Housewife said...

I hate situations like this. The BoyKing is a very submissive and shy child, (outside our home) and he is always on the receiving end of these situations. Unfortunately, I am pretty confrontational when it comes to my kids, so I may have made things worse by calling out the child or his mom in front of everyone.. I HATE bullys or bullying. It's just ridiculous behavior IMO.

Manic Mommy said...

I loved hearing that I'm not the only one who chooses the passive-aggressive approach of *loudly* asking what happened. It does work well. All of Mir's points are valid and well-thought out. Since Earl isn't a regular participant, I'd treat this one as a one-off and be done with it.