There is first time for everything.
Today, I was on the receiving end of a screaming lecture from another mother. It was transracial adoption playgroup day and we met at an Arctic Circle. My sons both love the play area at Arctic Circle and they've both been enjoying getting to know the other kids in the group. This afternoon we munched on corn dogs, bananas and string cheese and the boys played for close to two hours without any drama to speak of.
Periodically, as they played, my oldest came up to me and explained that another little boy--who was not a part of our playgroup--was hitting, pushing and shoving him. This other child was shorter and younger than my son so I said, in a kind of loud voice so that a present parent might have heard, "Well, ask him nicely to stop." This went on another couple of times until, finally, Garrett came to me and reported, "He pushed me again but the adult took care of it."
See, that's how I parent. My child was more annoyed than anything. He wasn't injured. I wasn't going to discipline someone else's kid and I didn't think the offense warranted me tattling on him to his mother. In the end, his parent put an end to the problem.
Not fifteen minutes later, the scenario played out quiet differently. I was talking to one of the playgroup mothers when another mom--again, not associated with our group (Praise the Lord!)--began shrieking. We are talking someone's-bone-is-sticking-out-of-his-arm-or-there-is-blood-everywhere-or-someone-is-having-an-uncontrollable-seizure-in-the-middle-of-the-play-area-or-an-out-of-control-gunman-is-on-the-loose kind of screaming. "Whose is this?" She yelled, sounding like she was honestly about to cry. I looked up from my conversation. She was pointing at Garrett. "Whose. Kid. Is. This?" She howled.
I'll be honest. I was really confused. It was mine, clearly, but the way she was screaming made it sound like this child had just murdered someone. If she'd been pointing at Matthew, I would have been less surprised. My youngest son has a hot temper. He's little and still tries to use aggression to try to get his way. Just last night he hit me in the face with a toy and it hurt like nobody's business. Garrett, on the other hand, is passive. He's a peacemaker. He'd just spent the better part of two hours playing contently with kids his own age and a handful of toddlers, never once losing his patience. The woman I was talking to turned her head. Then she whispered, "I think that's one of yours."
I nodded and muttered sarcastically, "Of course it is."
I made eye contact with the mother. "He. Just. Hit. My. Kid!" she hissed. "He just punched my kid!" Apparently, her first choice of words wasn't strong enough to convey the horror of the offense. My son hadn't just hit her child, he'd hauled off and punched him. Everyone in the play area was staring at her. She stood, fuming. I vacillated between humiliation, disbelief, and amusement like a pendulum crashing back and forth at rapid speed. I honestly felt like this woman was about to put me in time out, call the cops, and spank me all at once. My cheeks turned hot and red. The little boy sat still on the structure, watching his mother. He'd never cried or even complained.
"Garrett," I said. "Come here."
He walked happily over to me. "Did you hit that kid?"
"Yes," he said like it was no big deal. I removed disbelief from my list of places to get off the pendulum.
"Why? We don't hit other kids." I admonished.
"He was being really mean to us and not playing nice." Unfortunately, for this new little boy, my son had finally had it with waiting patiently for parents to intervene.
"Well," I said. "We still don't hit, even if other children are being mean. Do you understand me?"
Moments later the mother and her child vacated the restaurant and my cheeks returned to a normal color. It was a tale of two parenting plans. In one scenario, the mother calmly monitors the situation, knowing that her child is not going to die at the hands of a tiny hitter. In the other scenario, the mother blows a gasket and causes a huge scene. I'm sure there are people who are firmly planted in both camps but, as for me and my family, we will try desperately hard not to overreact.
When we got in the car, I explained to Garrett that he is supposed to always reflect Jesus, not just when he wants to. I told him that Jesus would never punch someone. I included an, "Are we clear?"
"Good. Because I do not ever want to be screamed at by another mom in a restaurant again. That was humiliating." So, then, I suppose humiliation is where we landed.