This was originally posted at Mockingbird Don’t Write. Republished here with permission.
I’m having one of those difficult conversations you dread as a parent, but can’t avoid. And I can’t be as honest with her as I want to be because she’s at that age where she repeats everything she hears, with horrific, lightening fast clarity, and what we’re discussing can’t be mentioned to anyone else…especially not the person it’s about. She’s crying on my lap, releasing her sorrow, and my heart is breaking along side hers…in more ways than she’ll ever know. “Why can’t I play with Eric?” she demands over and over again. “Because, honey,” I gently confide, “he hits you. And he won’t stop.”
You hear horror stories about ill-behaved children but when you meet one, and that one inflicts repeated pain upon your child, something inside of you shatters, and is rebuilt with an unbreakable steel. In Abbi’s short four years of life she’s met two of these such children. And both children have been boys.
A few years ago I had a dear friend whom I knew for years, long before our children were born. But when her son came into the world, two years before my daughter, my family was thrust into a situation we simply weren’t equipped for: She was a terrible parent. Her children were spoiled, violent, cruel, and vicious. Playdates were wrought with attacks from her son against my toddler daughter. These actions were scary enough, but his parents refused to address his behavior or curb it. He was never forced to apologize of suffered any consequences for his behavior. One night he pushed my then two-year-old into a coffee table maliciously. She was no match for his four-year-old build and came down hard onto the corner. And when my husband picked her up to check her head and calm her screaming, the four-year-old remarked, “She’s just fakin’!” That was the breaking point, and shortly thereafter our friendship dissolved.
Two years later we find ourselves in a similar situation. And once again, it is a boy. And once again, the parents are our “friends,” but they won’t stop him from hitting her. For a season, though we’d all been here before, I wanted to wait it out and see if his behavior would change. But on the day of her birthday party he opened one of her presents, then slapped her hard across the face with one of her toys, making her cry and leaving her with a large bruise on her right cheek. We were mortified at his behavior, but more so that his parents never apologized to us for it happening, nor did they force him to apologize. They simply shrugged and said, “Sometimes he does that.” Once again a little boy was attacking my daughter. And he made her cry at her own birthday party. Enough was enough.
So now I’m sitting on our couch, trying to console my darling daughter, because she can’t understand why they can’t be friends. She doesn’t see what we see. She doesn’t realize that Eric will always hit her. Her heart only sees a friend, an equal, a playmate. But my heart sees a bully in the making, and an abuser if left unchecked.
Right now she doesn’t understand, but one day she will. Her tears tear my heart into pieces, but I know we’re teaching her that she never deserves to be hit. We’re showing her that true friendship doesn’t involve violence and bullying. I hate the awkwardness when we see them out and my daughter asks if they can play and I have to say “No.” But it’s worth it. Protecting her, teaching her, and giving her the courage to walk away from people who hurt her is worth it.
Parents, I beg of you to do whatever it takes to stop your children from hitting. Sometimes we like to use the cop-out that they’re “just being kids,” but kids who hit become adults who hit and adults who believe that they can behave however they so choose, without fear of consequence. Our children are precious to us. My daughter is precious to me. Teach your children well. Teach them it’s wrong to hit.
“Mockingbird Don’t” is the brain child of Tamara “Awesome.” Tamara is a 27-year-old stay-at-home mom, homemaker, homeschooler, and folkartist from North Alabama. In her blog she discusses “fringe” parenting, being raised Southern, life as an obese woman living with infertility, and her takes on current events. Be sure to check out her “Stuff I Believe In” section to really get a feel for who Tamara is and what she stands for.