My wife insists that I write this as a therapeutic means of expressing my frustration. We went over to Six Flags this morning and had a very pleasant time. Right before leaving, we decided to stop and let the kids play in the "ball" house -- it's a pretty neat little area with thousands of foam balls that can be gathered and shot around in the room with air-compressed guns. It's a pretty neat place, but tends to be a little unruly.
So, I'm following my youngest around -- he's 2 2/3 years old -- and there's another little person there. I'm standing back to see what they'll do when the other child, who was about two inches taller than mine, sticks his chest out, puts his face right next to my son and looks down on him. Then he winds up a fist and pops my son right in the nose! I was shocked. It was exactly like what a bully in high school would do to the little nerd.
My son wasn't really hurt, but like any good parent, I grabbed the little punk by the arm, moved him back, and told him "No! You do not hit." Then this little boy did something astonishing. He wasn't apologetic at all; he looked up at me with a look of utter and complete hatred. I'd never seen that expression on a child his age, and it was unnerving. He didn't say a word. I looked up and there was his mother about fifteen feet away looking at me. She was far enough away and it was so loud that I pantomimed that her son had hit my son in the face. My son at this point had already turned to walk away, so I turned to follow him.
At this point, I was just going to put everything behind me, but eventually my son wandered back towards the other little boy, and I was soon confronted by both of the parents. The mother told me that her son was complaining that his arm was hurting him. She had stripped off all his clothes down to his T-shirt (he had several layers on) and was looking at his arm as if it had a compound fracture! While pointing at it, she was telling me that I had hurt her son! (There wasn't even redness on his arm, as far as I could tell.)
The father was standing by and I told them both that their son had hit my son in the nose, so I moved him away. The father seemed mollified, but his wife was still on the rampage. She kept going on and on about how he was complaining about his arm and how he shouldn't've felt anything through all those clothes, let alone be hurt, if I had been gentle enough. The little fink had ratted on me! I was flabbergasted. There was no apology from the parents, no acceptance of the fact that their precious child had done anything wrong -- just blame. The mother kept repeating over and over again that she watches her child closely and would never allow that to happen. Yet ... um ... hello! ... it just happened!
My wife had joined me mid-berating and we soon excused ourselves to leave. I was shocked and upset by the whole thing. I just couldn't believe what had happened. I had done absolutely nothing wrong, and yet I was somehow made out to be the bad guy. These parents (well, I think it was just the mother) were simply unwilling to be accountable for the actions of their child, instead placing blame anywhere but where it belonged. It was so weird.
Keep in mind that I'm around children all the time. It's tough not to be when you have three of your own who have play dates and birthday parties coming out their ears. In our church, we're also greatly outnumbered by the children, so I interact with them on a very frequent basis. I think of myself as a fairly decent parent, and I am not afraid to correct a child who is not my own if I see behavior that is out of order. In this particular case, my correction was mild, pointed, and I did not linger with a lecture or make a big deal. I simply moved the child away, told him not to hit, and went on my way.
In the clarity of afterthought, my wife suggested that we should've asked them what they would have done if it had been our child who had popped theirs in the nose. I'm sure they would've done as I did, or perhaps had an even stronger reaction. Then my child would've been to blame, and I would have been even more clearly to blame since I had raised my child so badly. My wife further suggested that some parents are completely blind to the fact that their children are not perfect angels.
Not me. I harbor no illusions that my kids are perfect. They're pretty good kids, don't get me wrong, but they make mistakes, as do we all (myself included!). But today, I know for a fact that my son and I did nothing wrong. So why do I feel so horrible about the whole thing?