Life gives us great opportunities to live, learn and grow. Sometimes, those lessons are taught by happy moments and sometimes, they are taught through moments we wish to never repeat. Today, I learned a powerful life lesson through a moment in time that I wish had never happened and I wish to never happen again. But, life can’t be that way and we can’t wish back the hard moments. So we live, learn and grow from them. (Or at least we hope we can do so.)
I sat with my best friend at the local McDonald’s catching up about the weeks that had passed since we had last seen each other. We sat smiling as we listened to our three boys playing happily in the McDonald’s play land. It was a quiet day with only two other families with a few young kids each. We had been to that play land plenty of times before without problems from any other families or children.
The moment came quickly and unexpectedly when I heard my two year old screaming for help with sharp screams of panic, fear and pain. My heart instantly sank as I jumped up to try to find him. I yelled to my friend that it was Camden but I couldn’t see him anywhere. I frantically searched the few visible places of the play land and yelled for him up the slide. My friend spotted him at the top of the play place and reassured him that I was coming.
I began to climb the tiny swirling stair case that led to the top of the play land. (This was a slow and very hard process seeing as I am almost 8 months pregnant.) It felt like forever trying to squeeze my way up as I heard my precious baby boy continue to scream for help. I knew something must be very wrong. He never cried. He was so tough and got up and brushed most things off. This was different. Something was very wrong.
When I got to the top I yelled for him and he slowly stumbled around the corner. His face was red, swollen and covered in bloody claw marks. His ears were bright red, his hair disheveled. Those perfect, chubby little cheeks were tear stained with his kissable lips quivering. I pulled him down to me and cuddled him as tight as I could. Tears began to sting my eyes as I snapped at a few older children to tell me what happened. They quickly told me, “That little brother over there grabbed his face like this [showing me] and wouldn’t let go”.
With my sweet, screaming child in my arms I somehow managed to get him any my pregnant self down to the bottom of the play place. He was frightened and shaking and had wet himself in his moment of fear. When we got down to the bottom another Mom was urgently yelling for her son to come down. She quickly came over to me and said, “Did my son pinch him?” Thoughts started swirling in my head. Thoughts like, “She instantly knew it was her child…this must not be the first time something like this had happened…..does this look like a pinch to you?…..How long had he been hurting my child before I could get to him…When she heard my child’s screams, she went running for her child…she knew her child was doing something” I quickly responded with, “Well he has bloody claw marks covering his face.” It was all I could muster. I wanted her out of my face. She picked up her son and nonchalantly said, “Tell him sorry”. The child didn’t respond so she let him down to go back and play.
I wrapped my son up in my arms and sat down at our table. He was sobbing uncontrollably and kept saying over and over , “my friend got me, it hurts, he got me”. My heart was breaking. The Mom came over and uttered a quick, “Sorry about that” before rushing back to her table. Not knowing what to say I muttered, “It’s okay, we’ll be okay”. She sweetly called for her children that it was time to go and left in a rush as I sat there with my whimpering baby. My poor innocent baby who called his attacker his friend over and over.
I sat in shock and awe as the mother hurried her kids out of the play place and into the parking lot. She never once asked if my son was going to be okay. She didn’t tell her child once that it was not right to hurt somebody else. Not once did she reprimand her child for hurting another child so badly. This wasn’t a small push or a shove or even a bite. This was an attack. My child was attacked by another child. He had bloodied cheeks, welts on his neck and face and scratches covering his little ears to prove it.
And me, as the mother of the child who was attacked by another child could only say, “It’s okay, we’ll be okay”. I was too afraid to say anything more. I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the other Mom. I didn’t want to embarrass her or make her look bad. But the truth is, it isn’t okay. Yes, we will be okay but at that moment in time it wasn’t okay. And HE wasn’t okay. And he wasn’t okay for the rest of the day. His little spirit was down. His joy for life was broken for an instant. Each time he saw his little refection in the mirror he touched his swollen scratches, cuts and welts and repeated the story about his friend scratching his face, arms, and neck and pulling his hair.
The life lesson came booming into my brain like a speeding train as I watched the Mother with her two happy, laughing children walk to their car. It was NOT okay. And what I did was NOT okay. At that moment in time my son needed an advocate. He needed someone to stand up for him. He needed someone to tell that Mom that he wasn’t okay.
IT IS OKAY TO NOT ALWAYS BE THE NICE GUY. Now, do I think I should have ripped her head off and made her feel as badly as my son felt? Absolutely not. My son deserved for me to stand up for him. In that moment in time he deserved better. He needed someone in his corner, and I wasn’t that person. The Mama Bear flame ignited within me the moment I heard screams coming from my child’s mouth. Yet, to protect another person’s dignity and feelings I didn’t use the Mama Bear protective instinct I was given.
We are our children’s voices when their voices can’t be heard. We are their advocates when they are unable to advocate for themselves. In those [hopefully] rare occasions when someone has hurt our children whether it be another child or adult, our children are counting on us to stand in their corner and fight.
So, what would I have done differently? Stand on chair and scream and shout that my child was hurt? I felt like it, and I absolutely wanted to. But, what would that have solved? Not one thing. Looking back I wish with all my heart that I would have told that Mom that it wasn’t okay. It wasn’t okay what her child had done to mine. She needed to find a way to fix this so it never happened again to any other innocent child. It’s not okay to casually walk your child out of a restaurant when he has seriously injured another child. These are the moments when we can teach our children right and wrong. When a mistake has been made how to correct it. When someone has been hurt how to fix that hurt. When we have wronged, how to right that wrong.
In the moment I was shocked, devastated and scared. I didn’t know what to say or do. But you can bet, the next moment that arises that gives me the opportunity to stand up for my child I won’t think twice. I am his voice FOREVER and ALWAYS. And I vow to be that voice no matter the moment.