Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Playground

When I first moved to New York I was surprised how many kids told me their parents told them to hit back. I thought the kids must have been lying to get out of trouble. So, I approached a mom and told her what her son had told me. I used my, 'isn't this a funny thing to say?' voice. But she backed him up. He is to hit back. She wants him to defend himself. I was shocked. I taught him different things to do at school if he is ever hit.

Anyway, I was thinking about the Hit Back philosophy when we were at the playground yesterday. Yesterday was the first time Andrew was deliberately hurt by another kid. He was walking through the sprinkler and walked by a little boy. The little boy grabbed Andrew by the hair and threw him on the ground. The boy was maybe 8.

I was absolutely shocked. It happened so fast. And it seemed like it took me 12 days to get to Andrew and pick him up out of the puddle. Looking back now I am obsessed with frustration over how long it took me to react. Not that I was standing on the side lines hemming and hawing. But the shock of seeing something so violent and the desperate need to get to Andrew as soon as possible, slowed time to a crawl.

Andrew didn't cry until I picked him up.

I picked him up, turned to the little boy and said, "that was so mean!" His mother was also on the scene. She had been holding his other hand when the boy had grabbed Andrew. That is how fast it was. Not even his mother could have stopped him. Then the pieces started coming together more. The mother apologized over and over. I walked away carrying crying Andrew.

After a minute, they came over. The mother said, "he is very sick." and then "he can't talk". Which, looking back, seems like an odd assessment. The boy seemed very delayed in many areas, but maybe 'very sick' is an easier way to say that to strangers. He was reaching for Andrew with a look of concern. I said to him again, "that was very mean." And then, "you made him cry." The mother was scolding him. I asked him to apologize. And the mother in the same breath told him to apologize and told me that he can't talk. I asked if there was another way he can say he was sorry (besides the enormous brown eyes and the look of concern for Andrew...which, after a few minutes, was breaking my heart). He signed that he was sorry. And I thanked him.

I am still torn up about this. I absolutely hated seeing my son get hurt. I hated that I couldn't have predicted or stopped it. I hated that this little boy is affected by so many delays that other kids steer clear of him at the park. I hated that the mother wore the burden of raising and teaching and loving the little boy that others avoid.

It was 4 minutes of sad upon sad.

And now, I wonder: How could I have gotten to Andrew faster?
Am I being overly concerned about the other boy and not concerned enough for Andrew?
How could it all have been different?

Needless to say, Andrew recovered much faster than I did. He was squealing with joy at the slide within minutes while I was still shaking. He was engaging other kids. Playing with them. Trusting them not to hurt him.

Possibly trusting, that if they did, I would be there to pick him up.


Goes On Runs said...

that is the worst... i want to protect him from every being hurt by anyone for any reason, but also enable him to learn how to cope, heal, trust again. that seems like an impossible balance.... even for the playground

Marlorie and Joshua said...

Robin, you almost made me cry. What a story!