Like when I find posts that I wrote three years ago and then promptly forgot about.
Actually I think I discarded this post because it made my son sound like he ran around beating everyone in sight. Now that he's a pacifist 5.5-year-old, though, I feel pretty safe letting you read this. Go ahead, judge the Henry of the past. He only beat the kids who deserved it.
To the mother I met yesterday at the playground,
I am sorry. I am. I never thought, before I had a kid, how much injury that child could inflict. I never realized how quickly a toddler’s mood could darken, how little time it took for his pudgy fist to wrap around a dump truck and raise it high over his head. And then bring it down on someone’s skull.
Is the swelling down? I hope it’s down.
I realize that at first, your upset was due largely to the fact that you hadn’t been looking when your child was struck by mine. I realize now, duh, that when you picked up your hysterical child and asked me what happened, I shouldn’t have shouted, “My child attacked your child OH GOD I’M SORRY!” I should have been calmer. I should have said that my child lightly tapped yours with a dump truck.(I will remember this for the future: “Tapped.” Not “attacked.”) I caused you to panic. Forgive me.
I should have known the precise moment when my child felt threatened by yours that it was time to haul him out of the sandbox and bring him to some less emotionally challenging portion of the playground. Your daughter—who is precious, by the way, did I mention that? Those eyes!—was an innocent bystander. All she did was point at his truck, but to Henry, she was all but declaring ownership of his truck, which he at that moment realized was the most perfect dump truck ever, so able to dump, so truck-like, its wheels so round and big, and she was going to take it and she had to be stopped. He had already been pushed to the brink by a 3-year-old who tried to “help” fill his bucket and by a smaller child who had leaned on him--twice. It was all he could take. Then your little girl pointed. And Henry snapped.
I hope you noticed, at least, that there were ramifications to Henry’s actions. The dump truck? Taken away. Henry? Sad. True, I could have left the playground with him, I could have really taught him a lesson by dragging him home, but it was the first time I had been out all day. So I let him keep playing in the sandbox. And he was being so good. He kept asking other children to play and then looking over at me like, see? See how good I can be?
He can be so good! You should see him be good!
I do wish you had been more gracious in the face of my apologies. Look, your kid wasn’t badly injured. A little bruise. That’s all! She was wiped up and happily playing in no time! It was alarming to look right in someone’s eyes and apologize sincerely and get a cold stare in return. Yeesh, lady. I didn’t hit your kid, after all. Can’t we have a laugh about kids and their lack of playground etiquette? Do you remember laughter?
All you said was, “How old is he?” In this disgusted voice. Like, what, doesn’t he know better? And when I told you he was 2, you were shocked. Did you think he was 7? Yeah, I know, he’s a big kid. He’s big. He’s Lenny from Of Mice and Men.
Anyway. Kids! Am I right?
All my best,
To the parent with the attitude at Barnes and Noble,
Really, now. I wish Henry hadn’t pushed your child—okay, in the face, which I realize isn’t the nicest place to push someone if pushing is absolutely necessary. Except when a kid is crawling, they tend to kind of lead with the face, you know? And when we’re reading a book and he looks over to see what’s rubbing against his side and it’s your kid’s little moon-face, what else is he going to push away? I didn’t even see her until the pushing had already happened, in fact, I couldn’t even feel it but he shouted so I guessed something was broaching his personal space, and there was your kid, shimmied right up against him. And where were you? Ten feet behind us, curled up in a corner reading “Marie Claire.” Of course you were glaring at me. Because I’m the bad mother, right? Because I can’t control every one of my child’s muscles while I’m simultaneously reading him a book and trying to turn off the ringer on my cell phone? Did I interrupt your article on 20 Mascaras That Won’t Clump?
Your child didn’t seem upset. In fact, she continued to smoosh her face against Henry’s torso while he cried out in fear. She didn’t cry until you ran over and whisked her up and shouted in horror when you saw her face. She has a scratch across her cheek! You announced to the entire children’s section. Your child pushed her and gave her such a scratch! Now she’s crying! I am sorry, I said, but you only glared at me and went back to inspecting your kid’s face.
I saw you looking at Henry’s hands, I know what you were thinking. Does she ever cut his nails? And yes, Marie Claire, I do. The nails seem to grow to twice their length every other day, but I am vigilant and the child struggles in vain as I clip away. The thing about cutting a child’s nails, though, is that then you’ve created sharp edges that can slice you to ribbons if he gets you in just the right way. And don’t talk to me about filing his nails, please. Even I have my limits.
In short: shut up.
To the mother at the library,
I knew the minute we walked in that we were in trouble. Your son is a little smaller than Henry—exactly the size he likes to take on. An exceedingly push-able size. And he was determined to be part of Henry’s world, to make his presence known. Every time Henry so much as glanced at a book, your son would grab it and wave it in my son’s face. Something was going to happen. I could feel it.
And then it happened. Henry tried to make a grab for the book your kid was waving around, and your son hauled off and whacked him with it, knocking him right down to the ground.
God, you were horrified. You should have seen the look on your face! You apologized again and again, and I’m sure you thought I was angry as I whisked Henry away. But in fact I was laughing. Because this time it wasn’t us! Whee! I went to find you after Henry had calmed down, but you had run off, no doubt in horror.
So: thank you. Also, please come back. I need you. I need you both.
I mean it,