We have all been there. We have all had that moment as a parent when your child is playing and something happens with another kid. And be honest, you secretly hope it is your kid doing it because that is the easier situation to deal with. You correct, reprimand or redirect your child, apologize to the other parent and move on. But how do you handle it when the fault is on the other kid? We had that moment today. We were at the mall in the kid’s play area near the food court. This is my nearly four year old daughter’s favorite place to go. And to be honest, it is also kind of mine as well. I can grab a venti iced latte and have a seat on the soft benches while my kid plays to her heart’s content in an enclosed area. No need to worry about the weather because we are inside. She gets hungry there is a Chick-Fil-A and a taco place right there. Need a change of clothes because she dumped Polynesian sauce all over her pants, no problem, Children’s Place is right downstairs.

Today, however, this was not her favorite place to be. Hubs and I were sitting at a table right on the outside of the play area watching her play and discussing school options for the next school year. You know, because we can’t have adult conversations unless she is distracted. She climbs up on the bench and leans over the wall to tell us that a little boy pushed her and it upset her. So we talked about it. She pointed to him and he was a least half her age, maybe even younger. I explained to her that he is a baby and he probably has not learned yet how to behave with other children. He is still learning not to push and to take turns. She understood but told me she needed a few minutes before she could go back and play. (We talk about how we process our feelings and that it is OK if you need time to process before you continue with what you were doing.) I was very proud of her for recognizing she needed time.

So for the next 5 minutes she leaned over the wall talking to us and playing with Billy & Tracey (her lovies that were once part of her Wubanub binkie when she was a baby.) When all of a sudden I look from my husband to her to see the same little boy, half her age, hitting her on the head and on her shoulders and she starts screaming crying. I completely expected hubs to freak out on the kid. However, he just said, “Hey! No!” and went to find the child’s parent. When he did find him he was sitting on the ground, with his nose in his phone while his 3 children were running and screeching throughout the play area. Hubs said, “Your child is hitting my daughter repeatedly so could please keep a closer eye on him?” I was very proud that he stayed as calm as he did because I probably would have lost it (especially with all my pregnancy hormones raging right now.) Thankfully the dad came over and spoke to him. However, my daughter is now inconsolable. She is sobbing that this little boy was hitting her, she doesn’t understand why and does not want to play anymore because she is afraid that another kid is going to hit her.

She finally calmed down when another parent who was sitting near us and saw that whole thing, introduced his daughter to Fi and asked if they wanted to play together. Fi was very excited to do so. She loves to make new friends. The two played very well for the next 15 minutes until the little girl had to leave. As they were playing, I watched the father chase his 3 kids around, especially the little boy, because they were just so rambunctious. The little boy was pushing and hitting many of the other children as well and the dad had to keep scolding him. One parent of a different girl that he pushed/hit said, “Do not let him push you like that! You push him back!” Finally, the family left and Fi felt comfortable to go play by herself again.

I said to my husband that we don’t know that boy’s situation. Maybe he has some difficulties in social settings. Maybe he is non-verbal and does not know how to express himself. Maybe he is delayed. Or maybe he is brat. There could be any number of things going on, we just don’t know because that is not our family. I try to be patient and understanding but when it comes to my own child everything changes. How do you explain to your child when they are barely 4 years old why another child is hitting them when they did nothing to provoke it? How do you calm the fear and anxiety that suddenly arises from it, she doesn’t want to play anymore because any kid might hit her again? Navigating the world of parenting is so difficult and scary. You never know if you are doing or saying the right thing. You want to teach them to stand up for themselves but you also want to be sure they are being kind and respectful at the same time. It is such a fine line. All we can do is our best and hope it is enough.

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