Dear Dad at soft play,
I saw what happened on Sunday, I was watching it all. I saw as you looked up and your son came running to you saying "Daddy, that boy pulled my hair", you looked concerned. And who wouldn't. No one wants their child to be hurt by another child. But soft play areas get busy, especially on a cold Sunday morning, and tensions run high between the kids and sometimes these things happen. For so many different reasons. I heard you ask your son which little boy and, as he pointed, I looked over and saw two little boys come down the slide with big smiles on their faces. Whatever the issue was with that child, it was clearly forgotten about.
But you couldn't forget it. You couldn't let it go, telling your son to stay away. Or approach the mother and ask her to watch her child. Instead, I heard you say something I really didn't expect, I heard you tell your son "If he pulls your hair, push him back."
Dear dad, you look like a nice guy. You're well dressed, as is your kid. He came to you for comfort, he came to you for a cuddle, to tell you he'd been hurt. He wanted your reassurance, your love, your comfort. Your child needs to learn how to handle things without resorting to violence. Your child needs to learn that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. He needs to know that these things happen in soft play centres but that he should use his words and not his hands to retaliate. To tell the other child he didn't appreciate it. To sort it out amicably.
We live in a world where violence is on our TV screens everyday... as much as we try to shelter our children, they will be exposed to it. They don't need to be exposed to it but those that love them the most. He needed your guidance.
I didn't say anything because your child looked like a good kid. I didn't actually think he was going to act on it. He was fine (all his short hair in tact) and the other kid was off on the other side of the play centre.
But what happened after that shocked me even more. Your son sees the little boy approaching him, he turns to speak to you, you look away and in those two seconds that your head is turned, he pushes the little boy running past him, causing him to fall and hit his head. And then coincidentally you turn back, poker face!
And the little boy's mother runs to scoop up her crying child with sadness in her eyes. Because she can't understand why an older boy pushed her son, while standing right beside his dad, and his dad did nothing. She didn't know her son pulled your son's hair, you didn't tell her you see, you didn't clear the air.
I know you may think you're teaching your kid to be tough, to fight back and defend himself. To be strong and take no shit! But what you don't realise is, your kid gave you away dad. 15 minutes later he went up to that mother and said "I pushed him" and when the mother asked "Why did you push him?", your son responded, "My daddy told me to, my daddy told me to do it!"
Children aren't born vengeful, hurtful, racist. That's all on us, it's how we raise them. Parenting can be tough, we're protective of the most precious people in our life BUT physical retaliation is never the answer.
Your child needed comfort, he needed reassurance, he needed love. That's it!
This post first appeared on www.mamaduckquacks.com