Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Bullies and Saints

Max attacked a kid on the playground the other day. I was standing there with a mother-friend and the kids were playing. Max was standing near the slide with another toddler, someone we don’t know. Max and the boy were staring at each other in what I now know was some sort of a baby stand-off. A split second later, the boy was screaming, Max holding on to his face with a vice-like grip, digging his fingernails into the boy’s cheeks. The boy’s dad separated them, telling Max, “Get away, you!” The toddler had scratches and torn skin and blood on his face. I hadn’t clipped Max’s nails in over a week, he’d been digging in the soil that morning, and the combination meant ragged uneven, germ filled scratches on the other child’s face. I was humiliated. I apologised profusely, and made Max do the same.

Am I the mother of a bully? I fear this – this lack of control over them. I can discipline them and do my best to curb the baser instincts, help their personalities to express their best selves—but their personalities are their own. I can’t make brand new personalities for these guys... well, actually, I did once, in the womb, but what I mean is now I can’t change them.

My older boy, he’s quiet. Always was. When he was a toddler, if he spied a child on something he wanted to play with in play group, or on something he wanted to climb in the playground, he either waited patiently, or cried. Max, he just pulls the other child off the equipment. I worry, thinking: how will these personality traits be amplified into the future? I have visions of Zach becoming a lawyer, his father and I watching proudly as he accepts his degree from the Dean of Harvard Law. He will pass the bar with flying colours. This is useful, as in my fantasy future he will need to act as Max’s defence attorney, after Max gets embroiled in that wild money laundering scheme at the investment bank. Oh, Max, we told you to accept the scholarship to Yale Med, but you didn’t listen, did you?

OK, I know I’m exaggerating, exhibiting online maternal histrionics. Max will probably be an artist, a non-conformer, someone confident enough to plough his own furrows in life. His work will be shown in MOMA and the Tate. Zach, he’s the quiet and conscious one, so he’ll be a vicar, helping people...maybe a missionary to war torn countries. He’ll be awarded the Nobel...

Back to reality: Max is two. He is not a bully. He is just two. I need to consistently discipline him in a firm but fair manner so that he doesn’t turn into a bully. Zach is not quite five. He’s not a saint, he’s just quiet. They’ll decide what they’re going to be, and I bet they’ll surprise me. I need to just relax and stay supportive, but not intrusive. (Note to self: must sign Max up for art lessons starting this Friday at the community centre. Check on availability of LSAT prep materials for pre-schoolers.)


  1. I hear ya! E's playschool teacher keeps telling me she's "well able" and it's clear she's not talking academics!!

  2. It's funny - with our elder son, who is also the quiet, conscientious one, my husband was always worried he didn't defend himself enough. He'd let other kids shove in front of him to get on the slide, and it would just kill my husband to see that. Now he's older (4 1/2) he fights back. But it's like you can't win, either your child isn't aggressive enough or he's too aggressive. I'm glad Max isn't taking any crap though, and you can show him where the line is.

  3. I am a new follower, I found the post to this link through twittermoms and I got a kick out of it simply because I am the same way with my kids, I constantly worry and wonder.

  4. Max is a lion. Find him a good ju jitsu dojo! Seriously - at about this age, our ancient ancestors were taking boy children out to hunt. What can they do with all that energy? You can't fight the nature, so give him the chance to learn control and respect. It won't make him the playground bully if the dojo is one that will give him direction. Good luck! Lyn.

  5. Oops, I just re-read and realized that he's only two. Fun! Lucky you. Guess you'll have to wait a year or two before buying that martial arts uniform. Or maybe not. :-) (embarrassed) Lyn.

  6. Sweet post! As moms we worry no matter what our children do, it seems. My little one is cautious,measured and prefers staying at home with me to just about anything else. I sometimes wonder if she'll have trouble making friends, or be afraid to take risks in her life. But then I also remember that she's two. Still, it hasn't stopped me from signing her up for group activities that always end with her wanting to go home after about five minutes...:)

    I'm really enjoying your blog. Thanks!


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