Monday, July 28, 2008

The Other Side of the Story

"Children's mouths speak the truth."
- Chinese proverb

"You can't handle the truth!"
- Jack Nicholson as Col. Jessep in A Few Good Men

Well, as I've learned more about "the incident" that occurred over a week ago, I'm reminded once again of how important it is not to pass judgment before you get the whole story. And particularly of how, when you know your child is generally well-behaved and truthful, you need to take what others say with a grain of salt.

Here's my recap of how the incident was originally relayed to me:

The kids went on a field trip on Friday and were waiting in line to get on a merry-go-round. There was the usual pushing and shoving, and apparently some child pushed Viva, so Viva punched her. Then one of the moms who was helping to chaperone said, “No, no, no – Viva, no hitting!” To which my child (yes, mine)replied: “What do you care? You’re not my mother!”

Two points here: Viva did not punch the other child, as I found out later - she merely pushed her back. (I'm not excusing this, but I do think pushing is much less harmful than punching, as I was originally told.) Also, there was a crucial omission in this story, which is that the mom in question did not see the child, A, push Viva in the first place. When Viva protested that A had pushed her first, the mom flat out said, "No, she didn't." I know my child and while she can sometimes be "spirited," I know that she will not ever hit, or behave aggressively, unless she is hit first.* So it appears that not only was she wronged first, but then she was (in her mind) called a liar on top of it.

This pretty much changes the whole tone of the incident for me. I said to Viva, "Okay, I understand that you were really angry and hurt. It sounds like K's mom took sides without knowing the whole story and that was unfair. But you know you are still not supposed to talk to grown-ups like that."

"I'm sorry!" Viva wailed. She had already had to talk it out with Daddy, with much crying and unhappiness, and then I came home to find her lying in a somber little puddle on Daddy's chest on the couch and had her rehash it with me. "Can we just stop talking about it? It just makes me sad!"

"You understand that you are not to talk back to grown-ups like that?" I said. Viva nodded miserably. "Okay, then. I can tell you are sorry and you already feel bad enough, so yes, we can stop talking about it. Can you come over here so I can give you a hug?"

Privately, Sweet Dub and I conferred and agreed she should not be subject to any kind of further punishment. It is a hard road to walk, this parenting thing. You just kind of make it up as you go.

* This is a policy of last resort, since when Viva started school, she was so non-confrontational that she was getting bullied by another kid every day. Finally, against my protests** (and since "telling the teacher" was not preventing her getting pushed, kicked, scratched and even spit on every day), Sweet Dub taught her how to throw a punch in self-defense. This was preceded by a simple lecture, the refrain of which was how she was only to do this as a last resort to make this child stop picking on her. Indeed, not only did the bullying stop, but they became best friends.

** "My child is not going to be a punching bag!" was Sweet Dub's response.


Cee in SF said...

Growing up is tough. Standing up for yourself is hard and it can make you sad - at any age. One of many life lessons to come. Tell her I'm still practicing, too.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

Yeah, this is a rough one. She is also learning the "when you wait your turn, someone might come along and take it before you even know what's happened and nonetheless you should still ALWAYS wait your turn" lesson. It's hard to teach your kid manners when there is so much rudeness and thoughtless behavior out there. I can see her thinking, "And the point of this is...?"

Mango Mama said...

Thanks for the update. I remember when Olivia was in a Quaker pre-school where the edict is avoid physical confrontation at all costs, but that's really hard for kids and my husband holds the same perspective as Sweet Dub. Although neither of my kids display any type of physical aggression, he wants them to be prepared to defend themselves when necessary.

You're so right, this is a hard road to hoe.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

MM: I have to say I was completely shocked that Viva defending herself did not cause more trouble, but actually rectified the situation. My husband is wiser than he lets on! :-)