The other day I took the kids to an indoor play space. Bugaboo quickly made friends with a slightly older girl, and they dashed off to play. I watched for a few minutes as they climbed the ladders, crawled through the tunnels and slid down the slides; they were playing well together, so I let my attention drop to my book.
A few moments later there was a big commotion; a kid was shouting that he wanted to use the tube slide. Bug and her new friend were at the bottom, starting to climb up and into the tube.
(So full disclosure, I HATE when kids climb the slide. Everyone has different rules and rationals, and I know several moms who readily allow their kids to climb, but I think it is rude– especially when there are other kids present– so I don’t let my kids climb the slide).
Anyway, I called out , “Bugaboo, we go up the ladder, and down the slide! That kid wants to use it, so you need to get off.” Bug looked at me, nodded, and started to move past her friend. Then that friend turned, looked me in the eye, and in a snotty voice said, “We want to play on it like this! It’s more fun!” Then she turned to Bug and said, “Come on, let’s go up.”
What happened next took only a split second– literally the quarter second before I could respond. With big eyes, Bug looked between me and her new friend. There was an uncertainty in her face, a question. It was like for the first time in her life she realized she had a choice. She could please me, or she could please her friend. In that moment she had to make a decision. Whose approval mattered most? Which consequences would be the worst?
Bug looked at her friend, “Okay,” she said. And she disappeared into the slide.
I was stunned. Don’t get me wrong. Bug is a normal kid, and she certainly tests boundaries and plays with defiance. But this was different. This wasn’t her defiance, this was her taking on someones else’s defiance in a bid for acceptance.
It was a mommy moment I wasn’t prepared for. I thought I had more years before this would be an issue. I have to admit, I didn’t really know what to do. I’m sure I looked like a huge pushover to the other parents because I just sat down. I didn’t go rip her from the slide and march her to timeout. I didn’t grab her shoes and make her leave. I didn’t yell for her to get her “butt down here, NOW”. I sat down, stared at the empty hole in the slide, and tried to figure out how best to handle this very public disobedience.
And then I got mad.
But not at Bugaboo. At the other kid. And at her mother. (Who, by the way, didn’t say one word in the whole exchange). I’m ashamed of it now, but if I’m totally honest with you, I thought horrible thoughts about the girl, her parents, her upbringing. I cursed those people who corrupted my sweet little Bugaboo.
I know, I KNOW, this was totally misplaced anger. Bug made a choice, and that’s on her– and me.
But it was so easy to roll my eyes, and hiss, “Ugh, some people’s children!” It was so easy to blame someone else and absolve my child.
Later Bug and I had a long conversation about what happened; she lost a privilege and apologized.
But it made me realize, as the kids get older and their world’s get bigger, we’ll have more of these moments, not fewer. I have no idea how to do it, but somehow I have to teach them to deal with “some people’s kids” without becoming “some people’s kids”!
If you have any tips on how to do that, please feel free to let me know!