The Library IncidentWednesday, August 29, 2012
It rained yesterday, so rather than venturing outside, Eli and I headed to the library for our afternoon outing. I signed out a new book and we went to the kids' area, which consists of some play mats, tables, and lots of toys.
I put him on the floor and, being a social butterfly, he crawled right over to where two other boys were playing. I'm horrible at guessing kids' ages but I'd put these kids around three years old, maybe? Old enough to be bratty hellions, anyway. They were standing around the table, playing with toy cars, if you consider screaming and smashing cars onto the table as loudly as possible to be playing. I don't know where their parents were. Probably off reading 50 Shades of Grey in the adult section or using the library computers to update their Lavalife profile, who knows.
Eli sat on the floor and stared up at them, clearly curious about what they were doing and wanting to play too. They ignored him, which I understand: playing with a baby isn't everyone's cup of tea, particularly when you're three years old and the big man of the library play corner. And it's not like toddlers are necessarily the most socially intuitive beings on the planet. Like "here's this adorable and curious baby, LET'S INCLUDE HIM AND PLAY GENTLY WITH HIM" is clearly not going to occur to a toddler. Instead, they got rowdier and louder and started stomping around the table, whipping cars around like Godzilla on a bender.
Worried that Eli would either get trampled or take a Hot Wheels to the face I picked him up, told him we'd come back and play another day, and gave the kids one of my best Supreme Bitchface Death Glares (they actually stopped beating on things and acting like shits for a good 30 seconds when we made eye contact. Frightening children with a single look = WIN.)
Afterward I worried I'd done the wrong thing. Did I save him from being stomped on by some hostile and soulless devil-spawn? Perhaps. But am I setting him up to be a coddled mama's boy? I hope not.
And then I started thinking about when he gets big, and goes to school, and there are bullies on the playground, and I won't always be there to pick him up out of harm's way, and then I got prickly-eyed.
I want him to be able to deal with bullies, and being excluded, and other generally icky situations, on his own. I know the library kids weren't bullies - they were just being kids - but the situation made me think ahead a few years, and there are just SO MANY THINGS little people have to deal with, and it makes me sad. I don't want him to be picked on. The thought of anybody being mean to Eli actually makes me physically sick. How do I prepare him for that? How do I teach him that not everybody is nice, but it's important to be nice to everybody? How do you establish that balance of sheltering your kids just enough while letting them develop a thick enough skin to not be devastated when he gets hit with a snowball or picked last in gym? Am I crazy for thinking about these scenarios when he's only nine months old?
So in addition to freaking out over Eli's first birthday in November and choosing which school to send him to (believe it or not I'm already worried about our local JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, sup 2023) I'm also now worried about bullies, mean people, and how to protect him without overdoing it. No pressure.