Step In or Step Back?

The whole family had our regular dental check-ups last week.  While my wife was in the treatment room, I was seated in the waiting room with the rest of our lot.

The twins were over in the kid’s corner playing with an etch-a-sketch type device.  All was well until two other boys – one about the same age as our two and his older sibling – arrived on the scene.  They had no interest in any of the other toys and stood and watched as Thing 1 and Thing 2 created pictures using the attached pencil and different shaped stampers.

Eventually the new arrivals became tired of this and the younger boy made a grab for the toy.  I was sitting close by and could see and hear everything that was going on.  Before I had the chance to even consider intervening, Thing 2 held on to the sketcher, saying, “Hey, don’t that.”

I was pleasantly surprised by our younger twin’s reaction, having expected him to acquiesce to the other kid.  Instead, he remained calm, didn’t shout and didn’t hit.  It was the first time I’d really seen him standing up for himself against a kid he didn’t know.

That however, didn’t put other two kids off.  Both grabbed at the stampers and tried to make their own mark on the picture.  Our two responded by drawing and then rubbing out everything that appeared.  A situation with four boys, playing with one relatively small toy, was unlikely to end well.

Sure enough, within a matter of seconds, Thing 2’s little face crumpled and he moved away from the small table, returning to where I was seated.  It turned out that during the grabbing and banging, the edge of the etch-a-sketch thingy had come down on his pinky finger.  I don’t think was in any way intentional on the part of the other kids – it was simply a consequence of the rough ‘play’.

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how to react.  My natural instinct was to become involved and speak with everyone concerned.  Had there been any hitting or bullying going on, that’s definitely the course of action I would have taken.

However, on this occasion, it didn’t seem right: first, I wouldn’t have been comfortable disciplining somebody else’s kids, particularly when their parents were seating nearby, though acting as though they had no idea what was going on.  Second, we won’t always be there.  There will be times when our kids will be challenged by other kids in one way or another and they will have to stand up for themselves.  My or my wife’s continual involvement or interference isn’t going to help them develop.

In the scheme of things, this incident was nothing more than a petty squabble between some kids.  However, it provided me with a taste of the type of situation my kids will encounter on a more regular basis, as they widen their social circle.



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