I am in a bit of a dilemma. Roughly 10 months ago, the boy was un-insulated from the comfort of his home and his stroller and introduced to the big bad world in the form of play-dates, restaurant visits, the mall, walkabouts in the buildings, and the rest.
I reckon he is a nice boy. Perhaps I didn’t have much to do with it, but it has just turned out that way. Neither does the OPU (other parental unit) for that matter, who spent most of his childhood fighting for his place. Being the third born, he figured being a bad boy was the only way to get noticed. Until he met me, of course.
It’s different with Re. Being born in a house with two cats, he has had a sibling advantage from the word go despite not having any. He has learnt to be compassionate towards animals — not just ours, but even those outside our universe. He has learnt to apply the same logic to people on twos, both little and large. So it shatters me when another boy walks into my house, pushes him, pushes the cat, or worse, pulls its tail or whiskers. Or sometimes, when Re is walking about in the park, doing his thing, and another kid just walks up and pushes him. Or he is putting his musical instruments back in class and another child just walks through him, tripping him. I fear that he may be too nice.
The first time it happened, I was shocked. The mommy-in-charge (MIC) told me this is normal, and that her boy had also been pushed and shoved when he was Re’s age, and that he will also do unto others what has been done unto him, so the law of the universe balances it out. It has been a good eight months since we had that conversation, but I don’t see Re indulging in any form of aggression with littler ones. So, a part of me is really happy that I will not have to be the mommy apologising after her child. The other part is hurt that my child is hurting.
Another play-date repeatedly did the same, and when things didn’t get any better and when I got nothing more from the MIC except, “I wonder why he behaves like this?” or, “He is always so good, wonder what’s happened to him today?”, I did what I thought was right. I starting avoiding her and the boy.
Re is confused. His response to such situations is to act slightly annoyed, and to want the object of irritation to disappear. My dilemma is: should I let his innocence and goodness be and just hope that other kids will learn to behave better? It hurts me to see him hurt, but at the same time, I am left wondering at what point should I tell him that a tooth for a tooth, a shove for a shove is how the world works. When will it be imperative for him to ‘be a man’?
It bothers me that mothers all around pretend that children will be children and that aggression and bad behaviour is normal, and just shrug their shoulders, pretending all is good, when it is so not. Perhaps some of them are not around all the time to see what’s happening and are dependent on day-cares and nannies. I have seen that perhaps one in ten mothers will truly take it upon her to explain to the child and demonstrate to him or her why it is wrong. Perhaps my decision to be a full-time mom has led to my microscopic observation of such things, else I wouldn’t know any better and Re would learn how to fight his battles anyway.
I discussed this with the OPU and his take on the whole thing seems rather simplistic, but fair and sensible. Any act of aggression that does not result in a larger good should be deemed bad. According to him, violence or aggression if used against someone equal or above is ok, if it results in a larger good for the victim. So for instance, shoving an older brat per se is bad. But shoving a brat who is pulling a cat’s tail is not. But shoving anyone younger or weaker than you is never ok.
I am now wondering how to explain this to a 17 month old. Perhaps I won’t have to. I think I will leave the ‘how to be a man’ bit to the OPU, as I still haven’t fully understood the male dynamics despite writing a column about men for years.
You win some, you lose some.