So it happened, earlier than expected but, it happened. At play group last week my 15 month old daughter was intentionally pushed to the ground when she tried to play with an older child who wasn’t in the mood to share that day.
My heart just about broke into a million pieces. I watched in disbelief as this unknown to me child put her hands on my baby and forcefully pushed her to the ground. I stood there dumbfounded and processed what had just happened. I mean, I somehow thought that I’d have at least a few more years before I’d have to deal with this sort of thing – she’s still a baby for crying out loud.
My reaction was probably pretty typical. I ran over, picked up my kid and comforted her because that was what my momma instincts told me to do. (To be fair, although shocked by what had happened Margs wasn’t hurt, crying or otherwise upset) I watched the other child simply continue playing with really no awareness of what had just happened.
I spent the rest of the day pretty upset. I was sad that Margs had been excluded. I was angry that she was put in a situation where she was vulnerable and defenseless. I was infuriated that another child took my daughters agency away and may have potentially showed my daughter that physical displays of aggression are okay when things don’t go your way.
Then I realized my kid wasn’t even upset by it and I realized that all I want for this little girl is for her to be comfortable in her own skin, set boundaries and not let this sort of stuff upset her the way it upsets me.
This was about me and not her. It’s 100% about my insecurities about dealing with these types of situations and my own feelings of inadequacy when it comes to parenting.
Mer and I had a long long long discussion that night about how we’re going to deal with these types of situations. Sure, she’s small right now but soon enough (sooner than we’re probably comfortable with) our little girl will come home upset because of something similar – what then? Do we jump in and help her “deal” with the issue, do we leave her to her own devices to figure it our for herself? What is the right approach? What method will help her foster independence, boundaries and self love?
As we discussed it our attitude changed from helping her deal (mediating the issue) to taking a very very passive and supportive role. Although Margs will have to proverbially trip and fall a few hundred times before she figures it out – neither of us truly feels like it’s our place to get involved in issues between children (we’re looking ahead here to when she’s old enough to understand these types of situations for herself). It is not my job to find out why, it’s also not my job to scold someone else’s child for behaviors I perceive as inappropriate, it’s not my job to resolve these types of issues – it’s between the children. My job is to make sure my kid is equipped with communication skills, empathy and the confidence to deal with these situations herself. Sure, they may not always go her way – but my job is to make sure she’s as equipped as possible to deal with whatever is handed to her and not to solve it for her.
But bullying said Mer. What are we gonna do if she gets bullied? Just stay out of it?
Of course not I responded! If her safety whether that be emotional or physical is threatened to a degree that she is unable to manage with her communication skills then clearly we’d get involved – my goal is to raise her to be a strong, confident little girl who will come to me to discuss what is going on. I’d like to think that I’m raising her to be aware of her needs, to acknowledge what makes her uncomfortable and to admit when she needs help.
In retrospect, I’m not sure if I handled the situation correctly. At only 15 months old my instinct was to run to her and comfort her. Yet, I question if she really needed to be comforted or if my instincts were somehow to make me feel better about the situation. Parenting is hard. Decisions even harder – we often have to react in the moment and are then left to question if we made the right decision.
How do you handle these types of situations?