Today at the park Landon joined a group of kids playing tag. At four, he was at least one year younger than everyone else. The oldest was 11. At the outset I could see that he was outmatched, but either he didn't realize it or didn't care, and joined in with gusto. They weren't the sweetest kids we've ever encountered as the game was peppered with with the kind of a singsong bantering that wasn't cruel, but wouldn't be fun in my book. It just put a focused look on his face and a speed in his foot as he poured all his effort into catching someone, anyone.
Do I intercede? Do I risk undermining his sense of competence by telling them it isn't fair to make the youngest one be it For.the.whole.game? Do I ask them to stop pseudo-taunting him? I decided to let it play out a little longer because I could see that Landon believed he could catch one of these kids and was really focused on trying.
And then he did. "Tag, You're It!" he yelled in triumph. But the kid didn't stop running or acknowledge him. So Landon tagged him again. As the kid kept running as though nothing happened, Landon put in a final burst of speed and tagged him one last time. Only this time, the extra effort turned that last frustrated tag into more of a shove and the kid fell down.
He starting bawling and ran over to his mom (who hadn't seen any of it).
He crawled into her lap and she began to rock and soothe him.
By an unspoken code that if you cause another kid to cry you must apologize, I asked Landon to apologize. I told the mom, "They were playing tag." thinking the sentence would be an obvious and concise explanation. "He didn't mean to push him."
"Man," she said pointedly to the mom sitting beside her, "My kid got beat up yesterday at the park, too!"
Ummm, what? What is she talking about?
"It's just a little bruise," she said. What bruise? What is she talking about?
The oldest girl pipes up, "Yeah! He PUSHED him!"
Yes. Yes, in fact he did. Because that older, faster kid was cheating. Maybe saying, "Yeah little guy, show us what you got! Come and get me suckah." didn't foster all sorts of gentle feelings toward you. Maybe the little guy showed you what he's got: a little fire in his gut and an unwillingness to be made to feel less.
As soon as the tables were turned you went running to your mom who claims you were "beat up."
While playing a game of tag against a four-year-old.
I don't belong in this world.
I don't understand these people.
I waver between feeling ok and feeling like a maverick, second-guessing myself at every turn and seeing my world through someone else's truth.
Like wearing someone else's glasses, it just makes everything a little fuzzy.
As we were driving home I asked Landon if he had fun.
"Yeah, I did, Mom. They thought I was so little and couldn't do anything. But, Mom? Do you know this? I did tag one of them."
Yes, little spitfire of a boy. Yes you did.
And yes, we covered the concept that pushing on a playground (even by accident) is not a good idea.