That Time My Kid Didn't Do It
*Side note, this was written far before the term "social distancing" was a thing.
Today a mother, who was equal parts sweet and mortified, apologized to me for the fact that her toddler son had both bitten and punched my child (who rather than creating a pea soup spewing incident straight out of the exorcist, just walked away-SCORE 1 for team adams) in the "Lord of the Flies" practice arena, also known as the fast food play area.
Due to how unhelpful I've found snarky advice in the past, I did not condescendingly ask her if she'd ever thought about asking her kid to "just use his words instead of punching." Nor did I suggest that she look into a book on discipline.
The poor lady sought me out to talk about it and make her kid apologize, she's clearly not training the kid in cage fighting.
Instead, I operated under my default assumption, that this mom is doing her very best and overwhelmed with trying SO.VERY.HARD each and every day. I simply told her that over the last decade, more often than not I'd been on her side of this conversation and that she was doing great and her son wouldn't end up on America's Most Wanted (though middle school detention was highly likely). She instantly started crying and regaling me with tales of her son's antics and how shunned she'd felt by some of her friends with. . ."less active" children. She looked at my boys, just slightly older than hers and commented on their good behavior. Oh how the tide changes based on the tiny snapshots people see of any of our children.
It was clear by her tears, words and the unexpectedly long hug, that she really needed that pep talk. We moms sure do shoulder a lot of fear and guilt regarding our kids. And depending on the day, we are either on top of the world (due to a compliment from a stranger) or hiding in the pantry crying into our secret stash of chocolate (in my son's defense, office buildings should not have a fire extinguisher within reach of a 4 year). The whole experience reminded me so much of how very hard it is to raise little ones. And while my expertise (or more accurately, lack thereof) is solely in the raising of, "spicy" boys, I know regardless of our child's temperament or gender, we are all bewildered at times (all of the time?) by their behavior (I never thought "no peeing in ziplock bags" needed to be said). We spend some days waiting to put them all to bed and then as soon as they are asleep we stand by their beds and wish we'd handled it all better, loved them more and barely able to wait until morning when we can hug and hold them once again.
What we all need as parents is a smile, a little understanding and a whole lot of grace. I don't know anything about the rest of that mom's day. My hope though is that when she left, rather than beating herself up (for one time she ate lunch meat while pregnant which in her mind *clearly* produced today's poor behavior-yes, we momma's have all kinds of crazy thoughts), she realized that this is just a stage and will pass more quickly than she can imagine. And that her little guy will grow into a precious little man whom she loves more than the world and who does not get expelled from school for biting in the 11th grade.
And most importantly I hope she remembers what I said after our verbal fist bump of solidarity. The key line reserved for when a precious child of mine does something so "special" in public that the enamel starts to drip off of my teeth. . ."just wait until I tell their parents, I'm never babysitting for these boys again!"