I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
October 12, 2011
He was the kind of child who set off warning bells in my mind every time I saw him.
You know the kind I’m talking about. There are kids your child could happily play with all day long without your intervention — and then there are the ones you watch like a hawk the entire time they’re over. Maybe they have a tendency to bully. Or they’re sneaky. Or overly aggressive. You just know something’s not quite right — and you don’t want your kid to be part of it.
This was one of those kids.
He’s the only other boy at Bruiser’s weekly art class and he’s a year or two older, so naturally, Bruiser thinks the child hung the moon. Me? I’m not so sure. It started when Bruiser brought his favorite McDonalds toy to show his new friend a few weeks ago. Not too many minutes passed before the older boy claimed it as his own. My efforts to to get Bruiser’s toy back from the boy didn’t go so well.
“Hey,” I said to him easily, once I saw that my son was getting frustrated. “That’s Bruiser’s toy. Could you give it back to him now, please?”
“It’s not his,” he said, looking me squarely in the eye. “It’s mine. I got it at McDonalds two weeks ago.”
“Actually, it is his,” I said. “He brought it just to show it to you this morning. It’s his favorite.”
“It’s mine,” he repeated. I looked over at the kid’s mom, sitting just a few feet away, for backup, but she kept her head down and continued tapping on her iPhone.
“Look, kid,” I hissed in my best Godfather tone. “Give my son his toy back. NOW.” Belligerently, he shook his head. I grabbed hold of one end of the toy. “Give it back,” I said, yanking at it. He held tight to his end, and a tug-of-war ensued. It took a few seconds of grappling, but I finally managed to yank the toy from the kid’s death grip. Tellingly, the boy said nothing. He simply looked at me with deep loathing.
“I’ll just keep this in my bag, son,” I said brightly to Bruiser, who stood open-mouthed, watching the scene. I smoothed my hair and sat back down.
Good times, people.
Since that time, art class has pretty much been a nightmare. In addition to stealing toys, the kid is prone to making messes and wasting art materials, or running around the art room squawking instead of quietly gluing and cutting and coloring like the other children– and he often tries to convince my son to do the same. I’d love to ban my son from playing with him, but friends are Bruiser’s crack. He lives to socialize, and denying him the opportunity to hang with this boy would result in histrionics that I don’t even want to attempt to imagine. And so I let them play — which means preventing my son from running around the art room after the boy, and telling him that “booty butt” isn’t an appropriate term, EVEN IF his new friend says it all the time, and sighing loudly and looking over at his mom over and over again, who never once looks up from her iPhone.
Last week, though, things escalated.
Mr. Brattikins brought a friend, another little boy who was his own age. When they arrived, he spotted Bruiser and his face lit up with malicious glee. He walked over to my son and said point blank, “I’m sorry Bruiser, but I have another friend with me today and I’m going to play with him. Not you.”
Bruiser stood silently and watched as the boy went back to his friend. They looked at Bruiser and snickered, then made their way to another table, a different table from ours, his mom trailing behind them.
“Why he not want to play with me?” my son said in a small voice.
I could have said something wise-sounding and totally false about how the boy still really liked Bruiser, and he simply wanted to give his other friend a little attention, too. But I looked at my son’s quivering lower lip and desperately hurt eyes and I told him the truth.
“Because he’s not a nice boy,” I whispered to him. “And he’s not worth your time. And I know your feelings are hurt, Bruiser, but you just remember how you feel right now the next time someone wants to play with you and you think about saying no.”
But I couldn’t console my son. His mouth worked as he fought back the tears that gleamed in the corner of his eyes, and he sat down his chair and put his chin in his hands. “Don’t look at me and don’t talk to me,” he said. “I just going to sit here.” This was a side of Bruiser I had never seen. It was the first time he had experienced rejection– and clearly, he didn’t want me to witness how weak it made him feel.
This is the part I hate most about being a mom. Because I want to go over to that snotty little boy and wag my finger in his face and tell him alllll about bad manners and bad attitudes. And after that, I want to go over to his mother and tell her that she needs to pay freaking attention to her son because this crap he’s pulling now is only the beginning, and while she texts and reads her e-mails, her son is busy turning into a Grade-A monster.
But I don’t, of course.
Instead, I say nothing. I put my arm around my son, give him a squeeze and hold him tight beside me.
Because if he has to hurt, at the very least, he doesn’t have to hurt alone.
Image via Kevin Dooley/Flickr