I'm super excited to have my Pardy Man take the writing reigns this week. I was out of town with the baby over the weekend, so he and Matilda faired for themselves for a few days. I think you'll enjoy his reflection on part of their time together...and see why I consider myself so golly darn blessed to be his wife.
I suppose it was inevitable, but a few days ago, Matilda had her very first run in with a playground meanie.
Our time at the park is always fun, Matilda loves to play play play hard hard hard and on this trip there were three other children as well. There was an older girl 4, maybe 5 years old, a 3 year old boy, and toddler girl. Their parents were sitting relatively a ways up the hill and would sometimes yell down instructions to their kids.
As usual, I was shadowing Matilda because I know that she has no fear and just moves so quickly. The three other kids were actually being pretty nice, asking me and Matilda questions and wanting to play. It all seemed so nice.
Until it turned not-so-nice. All at once, while in the playhouses, the oldest girl announces that she’s the mommy and the rest of the babies need to go. Matilda did leave the playhouse, but not very willingly, and the older girl threw a fairly sizable rock at Matilda which hit her in the chest. Thankfully it was just a toss and it didn’t leave a mark, but nonetheless, Matilda just kind of stood there in disbelief processing what had just happened. Her little baby bottom lip was stuck out quavering; I had no idea what she was going to do next… or what I should do next for that matter.
For about 10 seconds she stood amidst the woodchip covered playground looking at her little chest where the rock had struck her. She seemed to be getting over it when the perpetrator came up and began to taunt, “why are you crying? Is it because I hit you with that rock? Well, we are just mean to babies around here!”
We are just mean to babies around here? Are you kidding me?! At that point, Matilda lost it, and really who could blame her. So I picked her up and moved to the other end of the park without another word. I didn’t want our special daddy-daughter time to be ruined by one bratty little kid. Oh and that wasn’t the end either. Little Ms. Sociopath decided to follow us and then ask me, “is she sad because I threw a rock at her? Well, we are just mean to babies around here.” Hey, thanks for the reminder, psycho.
At that point, I figured it was just best to leave. As I walked home, I was fuming.
Daughter was sad and shaken up, Daddy was pissed beyond belief, but powerless. But, by the Lord’s grace, I realized that this was a powerful teachable moment. I set Matilda on the ground, and got down on her level. Through her sweet baby tears I had her look into my eyes and I told her some hard truths.
I told my child (no angel herself mind you, but at least never malicious) that not everybody is nice, and in fact some people are just plain mean. I reinforced that she is a nice, happy girl and I told my daughter that situations like these did not give her warrant to be a mean-girl herself. I even went all meta on my little baby and told her that the real reason the other girl was being mean, was because she was probably sad and while it’s okay to feel sad, we can’t turn that sadness into a weapon.
Sheesh, I was telling this to a 2 year-old.
Finally, I looked right into my daughter’s eyes and I told her that it was all okay, because Daddy was there, and Daddy will always be here to protect and comfort her. I then asked for a kiss, and from a frown, those sweet little lippies puckered up, and she gave me a kiss and chokingly tight hug. She pulled away and I asked if she was okay and very distinctly she answered, “Yes, Daddy.” And then it was off to the races.
In God’s incredible mercy, I don’t think Matilda was scarred (both physically and emotionally) by what could very well have been a traumatic event. After we returned home and had our little heart-to-heart, she was back to her happy, wild self. Thanks be to God.
To be honest, before I was a Dad, I would have read this and thought, “hey dude, welcome to the jungle (playground), get over it.” But let me tell you, this event has changed me, and the way that I want to be a parent. Yes, I was upset because my daughter was the kid getting picked on. But, the kicker is that at the time all of this went down, the mother of the little girl was a mere 10 feet away witnessing everything, and she did nothing. That, dear readers, is unacceptable. It’s not my place to discipline someone else’s kid, or to tell a parent what to do. She saw it and chose to do nothing, fine.
Poor parenting aside, what disturbs me most is the lack of empathy that is unfortunately one of the sad trademarks of our broken culture. Not being able, or willing to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and attempt to understand or feel their feelings is the epitome of self-centeredness. I know bullying is a hot-button topic, and thankfully this event was actually minor in comparison to what some kids have to endure, but nonetheless my Matilda experienced some not-so-nice behavior that I truly think stems from utterly insular selfishness.
Plus, this was a young kid! Her behavior was really just a reflection of what happens inside her home. Our kids will treat others the way that we treat them or their siblings, or the way that we treat our spouses. Golly, what a terrifying proposition!
As fallen humans, we are innately self-centered, something that left unchecked will undoubtedly transfer to our children, our children’s children, etc. It’s just a fact. So we look to, and rely upon Christ to change our natures. But, as a Dad I can’t wait to become perfect (hint: never), I simply must model and teach empathy now.
In the end, though I am loathe to see my child’s feelings get hurt, this event opened my eyes to see the importance of teaching my children to look outside of themselves and to be able and willing to engage with someone else’s feelings. It is paramount to producing good people that will marry other good people and produce good grandchildren. Thank you Jesus for showing us a way out of our selfish stupor and truly modeling what love (and parenting) is all about!
written by Josh Pardy (the Pardy Man)