Mike Reynolds has never been in a fight in his life, definitely not with a child. But now that he’s a parent, there are some things that make him want to.
My oldest has been in school for all of two weeks now and I think we’ve gone through all the stages an addict of anything goes through during a withdrawal period—not eating, eating too much, throwing up, sleeping in and not sleeping at all, hugging us and punching us in the mouth. All of that was easy to deal with. Well, maybe not being beaten up by my kid, but the rest certainly was.
The hardest part: “A boy pushed me today.” That’s what I heard come from her when we asked how her day went.
My first words after hearing it: “What’s his name?”
My first thought? “I want to push him over.”
You read that right—the same girl who tells me that crocodiles live in our backyard, that giants play hopscotch and dinosaurs play soccer can convince me, without any proof, that someone pushed her at school and make me want to push that kid back.
I have to say, it’s been a while since I last wanted to fight a 4-year-old. The last I remember was back when I was four myself and a classmate poked me with a stick as I was about to score the winning goal at our recess street hockey tournament. That time, the four-year old deserved to get hit.
This is how scared I’ve become of bullying, or, anything apparently that resembles my daughter being touched at all. And the fact that I started wondering how I was going to confront a 4-year-old about their habits made me realize there were a few things I need to think about in our new “my kid is a big kid” environment. There are reasons why I won’t fight your four-year-old, I promise:
1. We’ve moved from Unicorn Land to Planet Earth.
In Unicorn Land my child goes to daycare, spends time with one or two other kids, plays gently with them until we come home from work to get her and then spends the rest of the day in our care. She hears no insults, she has no physical interactions with other kids and over time she develops a unicorn horn and one day flies through the clouds collecting raindrops she can use to water her magical flower garden. She does this for years, learning how to be a Unicorn doctor or a Unicorn lawyer or a Unicorn beatboxer, never encountering more than one Unknown Child without us in attendance.
On Planet Earth, she goes to school, spends her days under the supervision of a teacher and some other educators as well as the children of 25+ other children whose parents may or may not know how life works on Planet Earth as opposed to Unicorn Land. She talks to kids who won’t talk to her, she gets made fun of for liking Christmas in May and sometimes she might cry. But she also does crafts, makes friends and laughs a lot. Planet Earth is a balance of the good and the bad.
I love Unicorn Land. There’s no bullying in Unicorn Land. There are also no sane people in Unicorn Land. And while Planet Earth has its faults, it’s where we’ve been given pass to raise our children. And on Planet Earth, I don’t see any situations in which grownups should be pushing 4-year-olds (outside of swinging on a swing).
2. My kid tells lies.
In the span of a week my kid will tell me that it’s winter, summer, spring and fall, that she’s a giant and that she’s a baby. That she’s grown a mustache and that she hasn’t yelled once when in fact she’s yelled 398 times.
So it stands to reason that my kid is going to lie to me about being pushed our yelled at or being told what to do at school. The problem is, I still have no definitive way of telling when she’s telling the truth and when she isn’t. The technology doesn’t yet exist (outside of Robert De Niro’s basement in Meet the Parents) to know whether or not you’re being fed the sad truth or a bowl full of lies. Often, if pushed gently (in the metaphorical, not physical way) The Eldest will relent on a lie, but there’s a fine line between pushing gently and badgering her into something you want to hear.
So while there’s no question I’m going to err on the side of believing my child, I do need to realize that she has a history of stretching the truth in order to advance the probability of getting her way.
3. Other kids are also just kids.
I spend a lot of time defending some of the things my kids do because, well, they’re just kids. Kids yell when they’re out in public, they scream before bedtime, they stuff half-eaten sandwiches between couch cushions and unroll full rolls of toilet paper into the toilet. They also push one another because that’s part of the Rules of the Playground/Playroom.
As a parent, it helps me to vice versa the situation no matter how bad an expression that is. Is there a little boy or girl talking to their parent right now about the girl with the crazy hair at school who pushed him or her because she wanted the green play-dough so she could build an asparagus shield? There’s a chance there is and I hope that parent is also listening to the story and trying to decide whether or not those actions fall within the bounds of regular 4-year-old play or whether action needs being taken. What I plan to look for is a pattern of pushing. One-off incidents don’t worry me as much but if we start having a nightly “XX pushed me today for XX reason,” we’ll have a bigger problem … with that child’s parents.
4. I’m not just a kid.
As natural as it is for a boy to push my kid to get access to a Dora toy or for her to push him to get to the remote control car, it’s natural for me to want revenge on the family of the boy that pushed my girl. Maybe not horse-head-in-the-bed kind of revenge, but something to make my daughter feel better. But, having moved out of Unicorn Land already, that’s not something adults should be doing.
What I don’t have to agree with is that kids will figure things out for themselves. They’re kids for Christ’s sake, if I let them figure it out themselves, one of them would end up making a cardboard crown and declaring themselves king or queen while the other one shaves their head and feeds grapes to the leader. I’ve read Lord of the Flies, kids figuring things out for themselves isn’t good. In cases like this, I have the sad task of needing to act like an adult and talking to other adults about my concerns if I feel it’s warranted.
5. I still don’t want anyone pushing my kids.
I don’t really want to fight your 4-year-old, I want to fight you when I hear your kid is regularly bullying my kid. And, I hope when your kid talks about my kid bullying them, it’s me you want to hit, not my little girl.
And I hope that you’re teaching them how important it is to treat everyone the same and that under no circumstances whatsoever is it ok to make another kid feel bad. Because we’re having that talk regularly with our kids.
Any time I hear someone has pushed my kid, whether I hear it from a girl who lies 50 per cent of the time or from a teacher who witnessed it, I’m going to be sad and I’m going to worry things aren’t going well because I spend a hell of a lot of time on Twitter and I see too many stories about kids who aren’t able to cope with the problems other kids are making for them.
So here’s the deal, I pledge to never push your kid and more importantly, I pledge to talk to my kid every day about how it’s not ok to push your kid. It would be swell of you if you could return the favor.
Photo: Courtesy of Mike Reynolds