Remember what I said the other day about my sweet little petty-thief of a son being a bully? Yeah, scratch that. Today we had a brush with THE bully.
After a little stylish trim at the kids-themed hair salon in our local mall, I decided to take Ethan upstairs to the play-area. It is a soft-matted floor with a bunch of "Alice in Wonderland"-like climbable figures and a big tree house in the middle, complete with stairs made of tree stumps and a slide. I don't think the material this stuff is made of has ever been used for anything else in the history of the world (and I'm sure it was painted in China). It is hard, but pliable. It holds the weight of pre-schoolers, but it's got this bizarre give to it. It's like plastic with lycra.
So Ethan and I kicked off our shoes (we weren't raised in a barn, people; there's a no-shoe policy in the play area), and headed in. It was like stepping into a tornado, with semi-trucks and cows flying everywhere, if the semi-trucks and cows were frolicking, screaming toddlers. Normally I take Ethan to the play area before the mall opens and it's just us and two or three bleary-eyed moms watching their rambunctious toddlers twirling like dervishes in all that space.
Today I kept close to him because, well, did you not see my last post? And while I was keeping close, I couldn't help but notice this group of boys between the ages of 3 and 4, running rampant, oblivious to the other kiddos around them. Oblivious, that is, until one of the little punks noticed Ethan, doing his Frankenstein walk towards the big tree. In his next pass around the tree, the kid ran right into Ethan. It knocked him over, but it wasn't a huge deal; there were no tears and honestly, Ethan did more damage to himself falling off the couch yesterday. And maybe, just maybe the kid didn't do it intentionally.
BUT, it kept happening. At least two more times he managed to be involved in a high-speed chase near Ethan and each time I saw him lock eyes on Ethan and run right into him, pushing him to the floor. Each time, I looked around for whoever was responsible for this child who I was starting to hate. No one was watching him. No one, apparently, except me. Each time he did his little bulldozer routine on my child, I picked Ethan up and moved him to another part of the room and another weird lycra-plastic woodland animal. Each time I heard myself saying in my head, "Don't parent someone else's child. Don't parent someone else's child."
That is until Ethan decided he wanted to climb the tree-house steps, crawl through the tree, and slide down the slide on the other side. Turns out, punk extraordinaire was already inside the tree, waiting to slide down. Ethan made his valiant climb up the stairs painted to look like tree stumps stacked on top of eachother and found himself face to face with the little shit. He stood up and waited his turn (I think he'd already forgotten that this was the kid who kept pushing him to the ground).
The creep saw Ethan, turned around, swung his legs back to face us and then proceeded to KICK MY CHILD IN THE FACE. Oh yeah, that's what I said. He was trying to kick Ethan off the steps so he didn't have to share the slide. Ethan looked at me with the big crocodile tears and the pouting lip and let out a wail of indignation and "ouch". OH MY GOD. There is something that happens to a mother when she sees someone intentionally try to inflict pain on her offspring. I can only describe it as "Mama Bear". What I wanted to do was swat that child across the face with my big old paw. But being a human instead of a grizzly, I simply threw my "Don't parent someone else's child," mantra in the garbage and said in my meanest, sternest voice, "Hey! We don't kick!" and gave him my witchiest look.
Know what he did? He smirked at me. It was a hesitant smirk, like he wasn't sure he should do it or not, but it was there. And I had no idea what. to. do. So I just kept staring at him with my mean-mommy face. And he stared. And I stared. And then....he cried. Oops. Not a ton, but his bottom lip did the whole quivering thing and there were some tears. I asked, "Are you going down the slide or not?" And he went. I didn't see him again. Nor did I ever see any sign of a parent, guardian, nanny, or any other life form responsible for that child.
Once I got over being totally irate that the little punk had kicked my child, I had to feel badly for him. No one was watching him. For all I know, his mom had dropped him off in the play area and gone to Nordstroms to shop. How must it feel to be that little and be alone? Of course he was acting out at my kid. I was right next to him, helping him up when he fell and clapping when he figured out how to climb up onto the oversized pile of plastic books. I probably shouldn't have barked at him like I did, nor should have stared him down 'til he cried, but you know what? You don't mess with Mama Bear.