This past weekend, Kiddo had his first encounter (that I know about) with bullying. It was pretty minor in the scheme of things: Kiddo wanted to play on a piece of play equipment, the other child pushed Kiddo around a bit and then held onto Kiddo’s shirt when he tried to get away. I intervened–not without some angry words, I confess–and a few minutes later Kiddo was off playing somewhere else, happy again. Meanwhile, I simmered about it, and spend the next half hour trying to pinpoint the other child’s parents, although I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I’d figured them out.
I was pretty sure that it had affected me more than it had affected Kiddo, but apparently he was still thinking about it, because that night at bedtime he brought it up again. I’d settled him into his bed and turned off the light, when out of nowhere Kiddo said “That boy wasn’t very nice.”
It caught me off guard, and I had to wing it. I agreed that the other kid hadn’t been nice, and Kiddo and I talked about it some more. I reassured him that he’d done the right thing by asking a grown-up for help when someone was bothering him, then had to define “grown-up,” and then confirmed that yes, Dad and I and his teachers and his aunts and uncles and grandparents are all grown-ups. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Parenting so far has had a lot of “uh-oh, I didn’t realize we’d hit THAT milestone already” moments. Most of them have been net-positive; inconvenient for us, but overall a sign of growth and maturity, like when Kiddo first was able to grab things off the counter, or the first time he told us that he wanted to go to a restaurant for dinner instead of eating at home. But this weekend was the other side of the coin. I’ve always known that at some point in his life some other kid would be mean and push him around, but I didn’t expect that I’d see it at two and a half.
Kiddo hasn’t brought up incident since that one bedtime conversation, so maybe he’s over it. I’m the one still chewing on it. Most Mondays I’m telling my friends all about our weekend family adventures, but I’ve held back on talking about this one because I’m not sure what there is to say. “This happened. I’m bummed about it.” I thought that I’d be all full of spit and vinegar, but instead I’m just… sad, I guess.
Every parent wants to wrap their child up in love and bubble wrap to protect them from the unpleasantness of the world. And we just can’t. We have to let them get emotionally scuffed, because one day they’ll have to deal with it, without us to cushion it.