Monday, June 04, 2012

Ball Park

I sat in the shade on my new lawn chair, watching my son's t-ball game while talking with Cyndi. Our little(st) girls were playing on a blanket in front of us, along with my 10YO. Our 8YOs were playing on a nearby playground. My husband was on the field, helping coach the kids. A man and a little boy walked by and my 10YO said, "Mom, that man yelled at Superstar."

"What? Who yelled at her?"

"That man right there. He yelled at her because he said she kicked his son."

"What?!?"

"And then he said to the other kids on the playground, 'Come on, you guys. She doesn't deserve to be played with.'"

I turned to Cyndi. "What would you do?"

"I don't know." She was just as shocked as I was.

I turned back to my 10YO. "Go get Superstar, bring her back here."

"She won't come. She's hiding and crying."

I stood up and began walking toward the playgrounds. I didn't want to bother Darin and make a scene, so I phoned Jen and explained what was going on, asked her what she would do. "I don't like confrontation so I would just tell my daughter that some people are jerks. Or, start with, 'Excuse me, is there a problem with my daughter?' and get ready for it to escalate." We hung up and I found my daughter. I asked for her friend's account of what happened, and he mentioned a pine cone fight, kicking, hitting, and eventual yelling by an adult, including the adult yelling, "Look at me when I'm talking to you!"

"Get up," I said to my daughter. She was physically shaking, and sobbing. "Did you kick people? Tell me the truth, right now."

She barely stammered out the answer, "Yes."

"Great," I said, taking her by the hand, "let's go."

My phone rang and it was Waldo. "Jen said I need to call you right away, what's going on?" I gave him the short version and asked him what to do. "Well, I'd begin with, 'Who the hell do you think you are, talking to my kid like that?'" I could tell he would have liked very much to have been able to reach through the phone and punch the guy. A few more words of encouragement, and he ended with the advice, "Say a prayer." I did that.

We approached the area where the opposing team's cheering section sat. "Which one is he?" I asked my eight year old daughter, who was clutching my hand and practically glued to my side.

"I don't know. I don't remember." Her head was down. Her eyes only searched the grass.

I turned to ask my 10 year old, who answered, "It's that guy right there -- the one with socks with sandals."

I took a deep breath and approached a man sitting in a low lawn chair. "Excuse me. Is there a problem with my daughter?"

He looked up at me and said, "Actually, yes," at the same time that his wife said, "There was a problem."

"Well, if you've got a problem with her, I'd appreciate if you talk to me about it. For you to have said what you said to her, and the way you said it, was inappropriate."

"She needed to stop her behavior."

"She would have appreciated an opportunity to apologize."

"I told her to apologize and she ignored me. Just sat there. Her friends told her to apologize and she ignored them, too."

"Clearly you terrified her. Look at her. She's eight. You don't talk to an eight year old like that. She doesn't know you, and you don't know her. You do not talk to a child that way."

"She was kicking."

"I understand. She also got kicked and hit with a stick, repeatedly. Kids fight sometimes, and we, as their parents, do our best to protect them and stop them, and we stick up for them, like I'm doing right now. Sometimes they can work it out, and sometimes they need us to step in, but for you to have told other kids, in front of her, that she doesn't deserved to be played with is crossing a line, and it's inappropriate."

At this point, BYU-shirt Guy, who was sitting behind the man I was talking with, piped up: "You weren't there, you don't know what happened either, so why don't you just settle down?" This comment got a few 'Yeah's from others standing by. From me, though, I just looked at him, and with only a blink of my eyes did my best to communicate my thoughts, which were: I'm not talking to you. This isn't about who hit whom first. I'm not starting a fight with your entire parent squad over here, I'm telling this grown-a** man to not yell at eight-year-old girls. Then I looked back at the man.

"As a parent, I'm asking you to not talk to other people's children that way."

"You need to talk to her about her behavior."

"Oh, you don't need to worry about that. I've got that covered. What I'm saying is that you shouldn't talk that way to kids, to MY kids."

"She was kicking . . . "

I held up my hand. Not in a talk-to-the-hand way, but just in a way that suggested I was going to say something. He stopped. "Did the words, 'She doesn't deserve to be played with,' come out of your mouth in talking with children about my daughter?"

He looked at me. "Yes."

"That's inappropriate. And, as a parent, I'm asking you to please consider how you talk to children, and only do so in a way that you would be okay with other adults talking to YOUR kids."

"Okay."

"Great."

And I walked back to my chair and I was shaking SO MUCH YOUGUYS. But I did it. It was important that my daughter see me stand up for her . . . maybe not important today, but the memory of it will be very important for her later on in her life.

After the game was over and everyone was packing up their belongings, I told Darin that we had some problems on the playground. "Stranger danger?" he asked.

"No. Some guy yelled at Superstar for kicking his son."

"Where is he?!?"

"I took care of it. It's that guy over there...socks and sandals. I'll tell you about it in the car."

After all was said and done, Darin told me, "You handled that much better than I would have." And I'm really glad I said something, even proud of myself because I was so nervous and worried that the adrenaline would manifest itself in the form of tears while I was trying to remain composed and not yell (man oh man, it was hard to not raise my voice!) (good thing I had kept my sunglasses on, you know, for protection). But the thing is, I don't feel . . . triumphant. Like, Yeah, I really showed THAT guy! Nothing like that. I'm just super bummed that the whole thing played out at all, that I had to say to a grown stranger, please don't yell at children. Come on.

We had a talk, Darin and Superstar and I, about how we will always be on her side, and that it is absolutely NOT okay for grownups to talk to kids the way she was talked to. And then she got grounded for fighting.

UPDATE: A few weeks after this went down, I found myself sitting in a lawn chair at the same park, watching our team play again, when a man approached me. "Remember me?" he asked.

I looked up. "I'm sorry?"


"Remember me?" he repeated.

"I'm afraid not . . . " I answered. 

"Your least favorite person?" he helped.

"Sorry," I said.


"I yelled at your daughter a few weeks ago, and you talked to me about it."

"Oh. Right." I braced myself and started to feel dizzy. 


"I just wanted to apologize and tell you that I feel really bad, and I'm glad you talked to me about what happened. I've been thinking about it a lot, and it made a big difference. So, thank you, and again, I'm sorry."

"Well, okay." I didn't know what else to say.

And he waved and walked away.

27 comments:

Hayley said...

i would've kicked him in the balls. what a jackass.

i'm glad you handled the discipline for your daughter in private & didn't yell at her and shame her in front of all of the kids.

seriously, balls.

Melody said...

That adrenaline thing is so problematic, and I agree with your good husband.

Good work, Jenny. Very good, indeed

Kazzy said...

Woot! I would have done the same thing you did here. Way to go!

Logan said...

Good job J! I absolutely hate when adults yell at or try to discipline OTHER PEOPLE'S kids. That guy was a total bully, I would have been livid. And for him to assume that you weren't going to "talk to her about her behavior", the nerve! Ugh, sorry, you really got me with this one. I'm totally impressed with how you handled it though!

leschornmom said...

There is a proper way to handle fighting situations on the playground. I have to say that I have been the "man" in your story on more than one occasion. It can be very frustrating when your children are being bullied. On the occasions that I have felt the need to talk to someone elses child, I have made it a point to find said child's parent (If they are even there) and make them aware that I had to step in. That usually goes over much better.
You were right in pointing out that a child should NOT be yelled at by a stranger OR told that they don't deserve to be played with.

kiki said...

Good job! I hate when people act like jackasses!

kiki said...

Way to go! I hate when people act like jackasses!

Gerb said...

I love this so much. It made me cry, for lots of reasons. One being that I love hearing about how you stood up for your daughter, even when you knew you might go crazy and start crying. I also love that you have a support network that you can just call at any time and ask for advice.

Lynnette said...

Great job, I think you handled it well. I'm not sure what I would have done but if something like that happens I will probably remember this story.

Camille said...

Guys like that give BYU a bad name! He doesn't even deserve to wear the shirt!

Emily said...

Is it bad I wasn't surprised the guy wore socks with his sandals? Apparel choices aside, you rocked the situation. I'm not sure I could have been that strong; I definitely shy away from confrontation. But you were fabulous. FAB. U. LOUS. And your daughter will remember that for the rest of her life.

robin said...

yeah this got me all teary-eyed! don't mess with mama bear. my mom stood up or me once when I was 10. it was so hardcore and dramatic I will NEVER forget it.

Mak said...

I'm also not confrontational, so I'm super-proud that you stood up for her and yourself. Especially because you were firm and didn't back down. Good for you. Also, what jerks (socks-and-sandals and BYU-shirt).

Jen said...

I'm such a chicken! I don't think I would have had the guts to say anything to him. I'm so happy that you did though! Hopefully he will think twice next time he wants to say rude things to a child.

Carolyn said...

Way to go! I am not confrontational, either, and I would definitely have cried while I was talking to him. I almost cried just reading it.

Erin O. said...

Nicely done. I would have crawled up one side of him and down the other. Now, thanks to you, I'll do it better if the situation ever arises. ;)

Treble Clef ♪ said...

Bravo Mama Jenny!!

ray-ray says said...

"socks and sandals", that explains A LOT.

High five for being a good mom.

Anonymous said...

He had balls to act like a jerk. But he also had balls to come back and apologize. Thank goodness the world still has a few people willing to learn from their mistakes, even though social media is quick to castrate them.

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

Brav-fricken-O!!!

swampbaby said...

You know already that in the past I've been a magnet for crazy adults yelling at me or my children for some reason or another, and from one "I controlled myself enough not to smash your teeth in" mom to another - you did awesome.

Amber Brady said...

I am shaking just thinking about if I would have had to have a conversation like that with some other adult. I would have been freaked out, but I am glad he finally came around & apologized. Phew!

Jesseca said...

Bravo for sticking up for your little one! I've always been a huge supported of this type of thing. I agree 100% that it is never ok for another adult, especially one that is a stranger, to yell at YOUR kids. If I ever have a problem with someone hitting or kicking my son I typically just let them work it out, or calmly ask the child where his parents are and let them know. You did the right thing by letting him know that it's not ok. I'm glad he apologized!

Barb said...

Oh, the update is so validating! Good for you! It's so tempting to either lose our cool or avoid the situation as parents with this kind of incident, and for you to calmly (bravely) address it was super awesome.

Yvonne said...

Wow! This was intense. You handled the situation SO well! Way to go. You made what could have been a really bad outcome, a good one. I would have flown off the handle for sure. This shows much more maturity and dignity!

Yvonne @ TriedandTasty.com

Karina Wetzel said...

My Goodness! you are amazing lady! I'm such a chicken that I don't know what I would do in this situation... But I very much so agree with you! And I'm such a mama bear that I know I would have been yelling in this situation...
Thank you for being such a great example!

Karina Wetzel said...

You are amazing girl! You handled it perfectly... I honestly don't know what I would have done in this situation since im such a chicken. But you never know! I turn into a mama bear when it comes to my kids. It is awesome that he apologized for what he did!