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."
"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."
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.