At the park, Nathan fell off the ladder to the slide. He wasn’t hurt but he was shaken up and started crying. I swept off the bark from his shirt and told him he was okay.
“HA! HA!” a snotty boy ran up and taunted, pointing at my son. “You fell down! Ha-ha!”. He was moving into Nathan’s space, his voice getting louder.
He looked about five or six years old. His mother was right behind me, pushing another child in the swing. My blood began to boil as he continued prodding at my crying son. His malicious sing-song voice knifed at my ears.
“I don’t think that’s very empathetic!” I spit out at the kid, using my firm CUT-IT-OUT voice. The boy shut up immediately.
Nathan cried into me, and I turned back to the bratty kid’s mother. She stared at me with the stupidest look in the history of faces. A slack-jaw country-yokel that couldn’t muster up a two-syllable word, let alone step in and give a teachable moment to her child.
I patted Nathan on his back while he whimpered and I announced, looking directly at her, “I’m sorry that SOME children aren’t nicer.” I told him it was okay, it would be okay. Accidents happen. (And sometimes they’re in the shape of snotty children.)
I ushered him back to the car. It was already time to go home. I kept soothing him with promises of popsicles and other post-fall treats. I didn’t look back at the woman and her children.
I know kids will be kids, but I really hate when adults waste opportunities to teach kids empathy and to be better people and not be little playground vultures who feed on the pain of others. I know there’s a difference between harmless teasing and what that kid was doing. I know kids will be kids, but adults have a place in that continuum, too. If Nathan had made fun of another child, I would swoop in quickly and warn my son to check himself before he wrecks himself or before I do it. He’s old enough to know better. If he can’t behave on the playground, he can’t have the luxury of being there.
It’s so ironic because the park we were playing in was called OhNoYouDidn’t Playground and Recreational Field. I guess I should have known.