Mom… the neighbor is coming to talk to you. Elliott yelled this in a hurry as he and a neighborhood buddy came bursting in the front door. What did you do? I asked. The conversation that followed included some details about a tomato from his friend’s garden, and how they were tossing it and then some older boys entered the scene and somehow this tomato ended up being tossed at/to one of these kids. So did it ruin his shirt, was he hurt somehow? My questions continued. Both boys answered that no, neither had taken place. I told them not to worry and to just go play, and to keep their tomatoes to themselves.
About twenty minutes later I went out to the driveway to retrieve something and I saw the parent coming full speed toward me. This man had an intentional stride, body-builder arms and probably 150 pounds on me. And yet he came, bowed up, like he needed to make an impression on his 5 foot 3 inch neighbor in yoga pants.
Is that your son? He pointed to Elliott. I believe so, I said. He proceeded to tell me how the boys had been throwing rotten tomatoes at his boys. He wasn’t present for this bloodbath, he was simply retelling a story without either party present. And his boys? They are older than the boys I was currently representing. But what was particularly amusing is that this daddy proceeded to tell me he was trying to pay it forward, one parent to another because it seemed that my son could care less.
Well neighbor. I bet he doesn’t care. Because it’s summer. And boys throw things. And no one was hurt and their clothes aren’t stained. This certainly wasn’t a charge to your neighbor’s house event and I’m concerned about what will happen if we ever do have one of those!
Parents I’m worried that we’ve driven our helicopters a little too close. We are literally clipping the hairs on their heads with the propeller at this point! Bullying is all over the news, and certainly should be dealt with. But what will happen if our children grow up without these little summer break conflicts? If we handle ever scrape and mean word and tomato for them… man, good luck with your first job. Good luck navigating interpersonal relationships in college and the Comcast guy who comes to your door when you buy a house. We are cutting their legs out from under them.
At some point he headed back before I could say much, because really, I didn’t have much to say. I gathered the boys up and explained that while I expected them both to be respectful to the adults in our neighborhood I wasn’t upset with them. I suggested that perhaps they stay clear of the older boys for now, as it didn’t seem like a good fit and they agreed. And then I thought about it again, and shouted to them as they ran off with some random concoction that resembled a bunny trap… play with who you want, but think about what you do and be prepared to deal with the consequences! They exchanged a look that said she is such a weird mom, but yelled okay! and went on their way.
I’ll sleep easy tonight knowing that hopefully, someday, these kids of mine will make choices, reap consequences and handle conflict with grace. Besides, a little tomato never hurt anyone anyway.