I had class tonight, so Chris picked the kids up from daycare. He called me right after to give me the big news. Michael was punched in the face at school today. Which is unfortunate because now I have to beat up a four-year-old tomorrow.
Thank goodness Chris told me on the phone while I was driving home. This gave me time to cool down as I drove. As I drove, it became very clear that there were two issues here.
1. How we would handle this with Bean.
2. How we would handle with with the daycare.
And both of those responses would be very, very different.
With Bean, it was best to follow his lead. I didn’t want to come in the door mooning all over him and babying him because that might be making a bigger deal about it to him than he initially thought it was. I also didn’t want to scare him if he wasn’t already scared or upset. Be fawning all over him might get him thinking, “Gee, that must have been really scary if Mom is so upset about it.”
When I got home, I talked to Chris first without any kids around and got the full story about what had happened. Apparently, Bean was playing a game with some classmates and one of them was mad that he wasn’t leading the group and so he hit Michael with a fist right in the face. So, we called Michael casually into the kitchen to chat with us.
I sat Michael on the counter and said very over dramatically, “BEAN MAN! YOU GOT HIT IN THE FACE, DUDE! ARE YOU OKAY??????” He started laughing and said he was okay. I checked out his eye, which has a little bruise below it and will definitely be a shiner tomorrow morning. The skin was almost broken.
“What happened, buddy?” I asked in a very curious voice.
“So-and-so got mad and punched me in the face!” Bean squealed, smiling.
“Oh my goodness!” I said. “That makes me so angry that someone would hit you! How does it make you feel?”
“It made me sad at first,” he said honestly.
“Did you cry?” I asked him, trying to both balance my casual, conversational tone with my incredible urge to scoop Bean up and carry him away somewhere where I can protect him every single second!
“No!” he said proudly.
“You didn’t cry?!?!” I said. “Well, then what did you do?”
“I went and told my teacher.”
“HIGH FIVE, BUDDY!” and then Chris, Bean and I all high-fived and cheered.
“That is exactly what you should do when someone hurts you or is mean to you, Bean. You should go tell your teacher. Good job!” said Chris.
We talked for a few minutes about how we want to surround ourselves with nice friends who speak and act kindly to us. Bean agreed. And then we let him go play, and that was really it. Mostly that conversation was to gauge how Bean felt about the whole thing, and then to help him feel secure, confident, and loved. Mission accomplished.
Tomorrow, Chris and I will deal with the second part of the issue, our daycare. We adore Bean teacher, but his class is notoriously full of challenging kids. We’ve had small incidents before of unkind words or hurtful playing, and Chris and I didn’t make much of a deal about them. We are both aware that sometimes those thing happen in a classroom. It’s just part of growing up. But this was different. For one thing, this was repeat behavior for this particular child. He had never hit Bean before, but I have heard he has hit other kids. The punching with a fist was definitely new, though.
And that’s where we draw a firm line with our kids. Safety and a feeling of security are the top priorities in preschool. Bean is learning how school works and what school is. This is such a formative time for him. I want to make sure… No, it is my JOB to make sure that the environment that I put him in is one that is positive and encouraging.
So, tomorrow morning, I’m going to meet with the director of the daycare and tell her that either that other child gets put into a different class (though, I happen to know through the grapevine that this kid was under a disciplinary warning and this might be what gets him removed from the daycare center altogether) or we would like Bean moved to a different class.
I called my mom and told her our plan, just to make sure I wasn’t overreacting.
“If this isn’t the time to step up as a parent, Katie,” she said. “Then when is it the time?”