There are few places more freaky than a play area in a mall. You know, those child corrals with shiny plastic foam cars and slides ringed with benches so parents can look at their smart phones and not watch their kids for awhile. (It's also ground zero for Germageddon 2012--where around Halloween of that year, Kristina and I took the older girls and our newborns there, and afterwards we ALL came down with the most horrific colds.) Yeah, that place.
But after today I have renamed it Toddler Thunderdome.
Kristina and I met there this morning to let the #2s get some physical activity and for us to hang out and chat. The first 45 minutes was uneventful as a number of other kids of similar age showed up and, beyond the occasional minor jostling, everyone was doing what they wanted and having fun. All of a sudden, right in front of where Kristina and I were sitting, a boy (let's call him Mr. Furious) grabbed and shoved another little boy (both appeared to be 3 yrs old) because Mr. Furious got cut in front of to climb on the plastic caterpillar. There was real menace in this kid--he was pissed. Luckily our #2s were on the far side, away from this action so we turned away from the scene of crying children and intervening mothers to resume our conversation.
Some 15 minutes later, our kids had wandered back to our side of the play area and were either hopping in and out of the plastic car or climbing up the plastic caterpillar along with a handful of other kids. I then saw Calvin start to prance (faster than walking but not quite a run) between the two plastic structures but he had too much momentum to stop and ran smack dab into Mr. Furious, who was merely bumped back a little. Suddenly Mr. Furious grabbed Calvin's shirt with both hands and body slammed him backwards to the ground so he's flat on this back. It was so forceful that Cal's back hit the carpet first then his head. Before I could get to my feet, Mr. Furious went all Shark Week on Calvin and bites him on the abdomen. Calvin started wailing as Kristina & I rushed to comfort him.
By then, Mr. Furious' mother had snatched him away from the area and confined him to the bench. She came into my eye-line with a look of mortified concern and embarrassment. My Mama Bear instincts of retribution were stayed by her look of genuine remorse. The mother apologized to me repeatedly and I felt the automatic phrase of 'It's okay' cue up in the back of my throat but I simply nodded through pursed lips. Because it didn't really feel okay.
But I realize even good kids have the potential to lose their shit sometimes. Maybe Mr. Furious had a low blood sugar moment or his parents were getting a divorce. In any case, I didn't necessarily want to rake her over the coals since I've learned by now that the tables can turn in a heartbeat. Anyone could suddenly be that mom with the acting-out kid that catches everyone by surprise. But I didn't want to let her off that easy either. That was a significant hit and bite so I also wanted her to internalize the feeling so that in the future she remembered to pack a snack or kept closer tabs on him or just didn't bring him to confined areas with other kids.
What I essentially said to Calvin but also directed at the mother was that "sometimes we have hard days but we're tough." Calvin was fine after a few minutes and the bite hadn't broken the skin. The mom might have brought her son over for some sort of apology but I'm not sure . Either way, she promptly scooped up Mr. Furious and got the hell out of there. As she should have.
Calvin shook it off like a champ but continued to talk about it in the car during the ride home. I explained how sometimes people get so angry that it causes them to do things like that. But we don't bite or hit to solve our problems--we use words. It's both fascinating and frightening to watch the microcosm of what the playground and even the larger world will be like for Calvin. As a boy, physicality is much more prevalent than it ever has been with Sidney. This is the way of nature but hopefully 'better natures' prevail. Hopefully.