Dear Grandmother of Small Girl,
We had a nice time this morning at the toddler group, didn’t we? The children in our care gaily dancing and prancing with scarves and maracas and happy grins. We even enjoyed it when the parachute came out and plastic balls went flying all over the place, which we then had to pick up.
We enjoyed it so much that we hadn’t really noticed each other until then. We were probably so engrossed in the respective charms of our small charges.
However there was then ‘an incident’, wasn’t there?
As the music merrily played with the cheery song about clearing up, my son saw your grandaughter with lots of plastic balls. She wasn’t really doing anything with them. This would be fine under normal circumstances, but you see we had all been instructed to clear up the balls and put them in the basket. Only your granddaughter wasn’t doing this, and my son saw she wasn’t.
He went up to her and tried to take one of the balls from her so he could clear it away. It is fair to say she was not keen to relinquish the ball but he took it anyway. Yes, he snatched it.
He was helping to clear away, you see.
He did not bank on what happened next – you towering over him and shouting at him to give it back, what a horrible thing to do etc. etc. With a really nasty expression on your stranger’s face. By good fortune, the cheery tune played on, but this meant you had to be even LOUDER, so you couldn’t hear his own mother, three feet away, trying to resolve the situation.
My son just stood looking confused, put away the balls he had, and you returned to your friends and relations to spend the next few minutes being horrible about him, and no doubt me. I only caught some of what you said. And I rose to the bait.
”Boys are rough’, you say? Yes, they are. But this one is two years old. I have told him off and I have dealt with it, okay?’.
No, actually, not okay. Because what I should have said was this…
”Boys are rough, you say? Yes, sometimes they are. So can girls be. My son is sometimes rough, I appreciate that, but he is also the sweetest and most sensitive child I know, who will put his arm around a shy or hurt child and help them to play, who tries to ‘fix’ my pelvis with a screwdriver when it hurts too much to play with him, and who tries his best to help others. He was not ‘rough’ with your granddaughter, he was trying to help. Try looking at things through a child’s eyes before you tell them off. And if at all possible, seek out the parent and do not tell off another child. If you really must intervene, do not tower over them and shout’.
But I didn’t say that. Nor did I properly tell him off if I am honest. It was more of a bit of a talk.
And guess what? After your little intervention, I am sorry to say, I waded in when he was trying to right a wrong. A boy broke something, my son took it from the boy. Did I let him keep it? To prevent further damage? No, I am ashamed to say I didn’t, because I felt under the judging eyes of you and your entourage. I told my son to hand it back and I said we should leave. I was afraid it would look like he was snatching again. Which he was, but to stop a boy damaging something further. So, I am ashamed of my parenting, and my son is probably very confused now.
Grandmother of Small Girl, I am sure your granddaughter will never set a foot wrong, but should she do so, I hope she does not have an encounter such as my son’s with you today.
I will see you next week. Sadly.
Mother of Small Boy (who you no doubt blame anyway).