Monday, April 19, 2010

Oh no she didn't!?!?

That's what I said this weekend when we were back in the play area at Barnes and Noble.  Natalie had been playing at the Thomas the Tank Engine play table with some rowdy kids.  (Those kids acted like they could tear up a concrete block!)  They were there with their grandfather, mother and two older sisters.  The youngest was a boy of about two years and he was "all boy" as my grandmother would say.  Once, the little boy got rough with his older sister and the grandfather grabbed the boy and told him to "get over here and rough up grandpa."  Then the older man commenced to punching the little boy until the younger started to cry. 

As I watched the kids play, I made sure Natalie was the gracious one as long as she wasn't being a complete doormat.  My internal dialogue was off and racing by this time.  "I would never let my kids act that way," I assured myself.  And I sat back and gloated in the fact that my child was behaving well and had been raised properly.

The oldest sister comes over to play and I'm just waiting for her to rough Natalie up.  Sure enough, she starts taking all of the trains and is not letting Natalie play.  I steel myself to get onto the older girl for being too big to be over there when Natalie turns to her and says, "Are you fat?"

I just stopped cold.  I had no idea what to say and I was floored that Natalie had asked such a mean thing, even if that girl had been being mean to her.  You can bet that at that moment my perfect mommy image quickly deflated and I felt like a hair on a toad! 

I pulled myself together enough to ask Natalie to apologize and then told her about being polite and not pointing out if she thinks people are fat, ugly, etc.  We continued to sit there until Bill came over and I told him what had happened.  He was mortified and he restated our position on proper play to her.  Natalie didn't really understand what she had done, but she was very sorry that she upset us and hurt the girl's feelings.

And here I thought I was being such a wonderful parent.  I stay home with them and take them to play dates.  I breastfeed and we Attachment Parent and selectively vaccinate them.  We have read the books and the research and we avoid the "training" and try to parent from the heart and with a steady hand.  Where had we gone wrong?

But had we gone wrong?  After we got home, I remembered a story I read about a mother taking her three-year old into the ladies room at a store.  While in there, the kid made all sorts of funny comments on what his mother was doing.  It was a cute story, but then again it wasn't me in the bathroom with my kid telling everyone in there that I had to wipe 12 times and I still had poop on my butt.

I'm not saying that what Natalie said was cute.  What I do believe is that what she was saying is that she's just a very curious four-year old.  She was simply wondering if the girl (who wasn't really fat, but did have some roundness in her features, aka 'baby fat') was fat because she was bigger than Natalie.  We still need to teach her public appropriateness, but we have to find a balance so as not to squelch her inquisitivity. 

So, does anyone know how to teach a kid how to be curious without being hurtful to others?  I can't recall having this issue with the other four!  I guess all I can do is to try to teach her what is nice to say out loud and what needs to be kept to internal dialogue.  It is a damn good thing I didn't say "Wow, I must be the world's most awesome parent because my kid is behaving perfectly and I don't discpline with force" to those people.  I HAVE said that before, online, and now the virtual crow is just as fowl (pun) as I supposed it would be!    

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