How To Deal With “That” Dad
You know, the one that doesn’t care that his little boy is running around while randomly hitting other kids? What the hell is another dad to do? My policy is typically to not get involved myself unless my kid is the one getting hit or other kids are in real danger of getting hurt. I have finally begun to accept the fact that sitting idly by and not getting involved just isn’t the “grown-up” thing to do, even if this means sometimes starting a fight with another parent.
This incident occurred at the local mall play area. I cringe to think about what kind of bacteria I am carrying out of those things, but the kids love them*, so there’s that. At any rate, on this day, the arena was rife with rambunctious little soldiers, wrestling, being generally rough and, you know, being boys. One was on his own, and doing that thing where a boy will just randomly, nonchalantly stick his arm out and “pretend” he didn’t hit anybody.
I noticed his dad right away, because he seemed to start off by doing the right thing. He did so by attempting to call his boy over for a talk. A boy engaged in the “pretend not-hitting but really hitting” game, however, will obviously also not have a problem playing the “pretend I don’t hear dad calling” game.** He should have gone over to the kid, brought him back to sit down, and gave him a couple of lectures and time-outs, but this is where he became that dad. The one who sat down and made the bad parenting decision, in my opinion.
Meanwhile, his boy carried on, business as usual: arm out here, leg out there, light push, bit-of-a-shove, and so on. I shook my head in my mind, wondering how his dad was just letting this go on. This is probably where I decided that I needed a bigger pedestal, and a way to implement it. Then the dad got up again. “Good,” I thought to myself. “About time, and before my girls get whacked by his kid.” Another girl got pushed.
The boy’s father walked across the play area, directly to him this time. I was pretty sure looking down on all of this transpiring, that the dad was either going to yank him back to sit down, yell at him or hit him. It was like spinning the wheel of bad-dadding roulette.
I was completely wrong, and the wheel landed on “total dad move.”
The father puts his arms on the boys shoulders, and proceeded to give him an impassioned speech about why hitting other children was wrong. I heard the word “love.” I sensed empathy, patience, and understanding. I saw a total connection between father and son, where a dad was just trying his hardest to show his child that he loved him while teaching him about his actions. He then gave the boy a hug and let him go back to playing.
After that, there was no pushing, shoving, or anything else, despite the fact that some other kids were still pretending they were in the UFC. I know the boy wasn’t “cured” of playing rough, but he was pacified for the time being. At this point, if I was really on a pedestal, I would have gotten off of it and handed it to this father. He wasn’t ignoring his child at first, after all, or just letting him do whatever he wanted. He was giving him a second chance. A luxury that I didn’t give this father when I judged him by one small action… a mere microcosm in the universe of his life as a dad.
* Play areas and bacteria, in case you were wondering
** I have recently started to see this behavior from my own kids. It drives my crazy. [expletive deleted]