It is defined by ‘Favoring reaction’.
There are times when I can over ride my natural reaction to panic. I tend to be a person who wants to fix what ails the world around me, and I can wear my heart on my sleeve. I also hold onto grudges longer than I know I should.
In situations where a snappy comeback might leave an impression I am speechless. I tend to say regrettable things when in these situations and have learned to say nothing. I think of great comebacks later and then never say them to anyone it matters to.
I am doing just that this morning, I am stewing as I drink my morning coffee and look at the news of the world. I did not fall asleep redecorating my house as I usually do. On nights that are proceeded by an occurrence that seem wrong to my son or another child I stew and talk to myself. No, I don’t find it helpful or healthy, but I still do it.
Maybe it is best that I did not witness the situation stewing in my mind, I am more objective today. My son seems no worse for the wear either at the moment.
The report of the incident came from my younger son. My husband had been kind to take the boys out for a few hours so I could do some much needed cleaning without interruption. Upon their arrival, new Lego boxes in tow the stories of the outing started to flow. They had gone to a bounce house, typically a place I am not fond of. The energy of the kids there allows for some untypical behaviors from many kids. The staff usually highschool kids who are not well equipped to work with challenging kids nor communicate effectively with strung out or checked out parents.
And so it happened there. My younger son cut to the meat of the story and said they left suddenly because older brother was spitting on a kid. My boys ran off to clean up their room before tackling the new Lego set, my husband brushed off the incident. As the mom, I want the whole ugly story and the possible scenarios start taking over all thought in my head.
How many kids were there? Was it really busy? How old were the other kids? What was my husband doing while he was there? How long had they been there before the spitting started? Who was spat on and why? How did my son handle the after affects? Many questions and wishing I had a camera to replay it.
It seems that it was a free for all there, as it can be. The story came out more later after dinner again from the younger brother. He has no gain in lying about it. He has seen many of these situations and has learned to take them as they come. It seems it was a situation of bigger kid holding down a smaller child, and thus smaller child (yes, being mine) used what way he could to escape the torment and spat at the offending child.
Now don’t think of me as a mom who always comes the rescue of my son, who does have some social deficiencies. I know he gets himself into trouble and get in over his head and reacts poorly to being overwhelmed. I know there is much more to the story than the ending part with the spitting. This is not my first rodeo with these little people.
You wonder why I would stew over something I’ve been through before. Well the stewing part comes from the parts I learned from my husband after the spitting. It seems that the other adults had a reaction to the spitting as well, and not so much to why the spitting occurred. Through the chaos of my son running toward the door, shoes and coat in hand, some adults were seen trying to grab at my son. The report is that the short exchange of words had something to do with not allowing spitting and my husband was off to put our son’s safety as the priority at this point.
So I sit and stew. I want to call the owners and have a civil conversation about grabbing children. But I can’t be sure it was an employee who reached for our son. And if they had caught him, well we say around here you don’t put your hand in a rabid animal hole!
What do I take from the story? I imagine a child having a good time, being pumped up on energy and excitement, a child who has a difficult time calming down. I imagine my son trying o be playful and chummy with a older child and having a good time running around playing chase or whatever game they came up with. But then I imagine the story line from my younger son that an older boy was holding down my son and not letting him up. Could it be a wrestle game gone badly? Could it have been an older boy being a bit of a bully? Whatever it was, my son felt the need to spit, to defend himself. The accounts of that I have double. And so does my husband who heard it just after the fact.
So where does the adults play into this? I don’t know. It is a place designed to allow kids to run around crazy and get a lots of energy out. There will be accidents and hurt feelings, and parents can sit and check e-mail or have a conversation. It is what is it and there are many of them in the US.
So I stew about the immediate reaction from the closets adults before my husband was alerted. The lashing out and the physical need to control a child is what sits badly with me, myself and I. If a child is fleeing the scene (of the bouncy castle) he is no longer a threat to another child. Spitting and fleeing are signs of a frightened child, so don’t grab them to scare them more.
I stew with the notion that these strangers see the situation for the ‘bad behavior’ of one and not the decline of a group. To react to a reaction, to favor the reaction of one child is reactionary.
I stew a bit because this is not the first time our family has encountered this. Nor will it be the last. It is told many times over on social media and the news about children being punished for their immature social skills. We are frightening children.
Our reaction frightens them, and then they will always fear an adult’s reaction to a situation. They want and need safe trusting environments. We need to model behavior, our reaction to these situations. Approach tem with your shoulders down, a smile on your face and be willing to help all parties involved.
There are many aspects to one incident.
The Tattle Tale- this is the child who saw the whole story, yet they typically will be on one side. Their words can help understand more of the story of how it came to blows (or spits or torn up paper or cross words). They need to be thanked by weighing their opinion (because there is a lot of opinion at a young age as to what is socially acceptable and not). They need to be shown that as an adult you will respect their contribution but ultimately lead the proper result.
The victim- that is a hard one to determine who that is. The swinging, spitting, stomping child seems to be the offender, but is he really? Is he just reacting to a situation that he cannot control? Is the victim really the offender, and the offender the victim? What is it in the environment that is challenging these children to react in the way they have. Respect that a child will first try to do the right thing, but when that fails they will resort to protecting themselves, either physically or emotionally.
The offender, who is the offender? Wow, what a huge endeavor for an adult to really see the picture. In my house we assume all parties are involved, all parties are guilty of being involved. We don’t usually tell them how to work it out, we do tell them they must work it out.
I don’t know when or why we started it. When our boys, a mere 14 months apart, bicker or bite or hit or yell or say hurtful things to each other we want them to see the eyes of the other. There are 4 steps that lead to a landing in our home. It is there on those 4 steps that my boys can overcome anything with each other. It is there that they sit, tell each other how they feel, or what they want, or how mad they are. I don’t let them leave without hearing each other too. I ask they hug before they leave and soon they are in a loving embrace laughing as only two brothers can.
Even when you’d think they were going to go on a Lego strike, taking their buildings and cars and little Lego men to opposite corners of the house, they work it out. It is usually a small issue that turns into a power struggle. Is it that they don’t want to hear their mother’s solution? The Lego can always take a vacation in the attic. Or that they have a moment of compassion, there on the stairs seeing eye to eye? Do you really want to hurt your brother, or do you just want to be heard? Do you want to play together or have one leader and one follower? Here my older son learns compromise and my younger learns his words are valued. We find ourselves on those stairs many times, but they are growing and developing.
The stairs are always a safe place to air your concerns and complaints. When they need more coxing or more helping with the compromise, I sit with them. The stairs are never for ridicule or pointing fingers, for punishment or intimidation. They can choose to sit anywhere on the 4 steps, close or far, up or down. Every time they leave after a hug and embrace, closer than before and ready to work out the problem. I need to remember those steps more often for my own problems as a parent, use them more when parenting them each.
Maybe I should go sit on those stairs now. While I stew, maybe it will calm me. I wish they were portable, I wish the schools had them. The stairs themselves are not magical, it is what happens there on the stairs, what they represent that helps turn around a difficult situation.
My stairs are non-reactionary, they are extraordinary.
I wish I could invite over reactionary people and sit on my stairs, have a chat about the perceived problem, and find a resolution there on the stairs and have an embrace. Embrace to show an agreement that we can move on and be more productive, less reactionary.
How would you feel if your child was sitting on the stairs with another child discussing a disagreement? Would you find them amazing? I would, I would be proud wanting to lean in and listen, learning about how to work out problems.
Can we find that place in a school, a bouncy house place, a park or anywhere kids face challenges? Wow, what would that look like? Parents calm and safe and trusting to your own kids to the other kids who make up your community.
Let model it!