Fight or Flight


One of my biggest challenges as a mom is watching as my children learn life lessons. I don’t want to be one of those moms that swoops in at every dilemma and saves my baby, but man, is it hard.
One of those incidences happened yesterday that still has me wondering this morning if I did the right thing. I guess I won’t find out until Nate is 30 and brings it up to me that I didn’t help him out of this jam when he was five.
So, I give you permission to judge me. I am going to tell you what happened and you can decide for yourself if I should have interfered or not.
Yesterday was a nice day as far as winter goes. For me, anything above 50 is good outdoor weather. I’ll go as low as 47 if the kids are rowdy enough. So after school yesterday when the kids asked me if I would take them to the park, I said yes. And so we went.
At first Nate and Jesse were content to play on the playground, but this particular park has a large field where the kids can exit the playground and run free. My son has always preferred this “run-free” portion of the park to the more structured play ground.
Down in the field there were six kids playing together, boys and girls ranging in age from around five to 11. The oldest was a girl that looked to be about 11. She was definitely the leader. There was another girl with her that looked about nine. And most of the other kids were boys that were younger, say five to seven.
I noticed all of those kids were fighting each other. Two little boys were fighting, another couple of kids were taking the nine-year-old girl’s book and running away with it, and I saw a little kid, probably five, swinging punches at the 11-year-old girl while she held his head so his fists could not reach her. I suppose the parents to all of these children were up on the playground in the table area, which is not visible where these kids were playing.
As usual, Nate went down in the field. He went down and found a large branch that had been cut from a tree. It was thin in diameter, but long with branches coming off of it. It looked like a small tree itself if stood on its end.
Nate has always loved to play with sticks and branches, so I took my daughter and we went to the field and stayed far enough away but close enough that my eyes were on him. He was having fun showing me his strength at being able to carry the branch. He even told me that it was not a branch it was a tree and he was the strongest boy on earth.
After seeing him feel so strong, you can only imagine my heavy heart when after a while the boys that were playing rough with one another saw my son’s big tree and decided they too wanted a turn with it. I had gone back to the playground area with my daughter, so I watched far enough away that I could see everything, but hear nothing.
As the boys approached him my heart sank. I hoped that they wanted to play with him, but they just wanted the branch. I saw Nate shake his head no and dig his heels in the ground. Then one of the boys went and stepped on a branch sticking off of the main part of the “tree” and broke it. Nate still hung on. But when the 11-year-old girl came up and lifted it straight out of Nate’s hands and ran off with it, it was more than he could do. He stood there for a minute and ran away as fast as he could.
In the end there were four kids surrounding his branch and one of him. I didn’t go stand up for him, I just watched. And when he ran, I went over to meet him.
The first thing he said was, “They took my tree.”
I asked if he told them he didn’t want to give it up and he said, “They asked me for it and I said no, then that kid just broke it.”
Then he said something that made me question what I had done. He said, “Come on, mom, let’s go get my tree back.” That was hard. He was asking me to be on his team. To go fight with him, not just for him.
I said, “You had two choices in your situation when those boys were taking your tree.”
“What were my choices?” he asked.
“If the stick meant that much to you, you could have dug your heels in and refused to give it up. Or, you could have said ‘It’s just a stick, take it.’” I said.
“Let’s go get it back.” He pleaded.
I said to him, “No.”
“But why?” His eyes looked at me so sweet when he asked me this question.
“Because, for me, it is just a stick; nothing more and not worth the fight.” I said. “You feel sad more because the boys (and girl) took your stick than you feel sad about the stick. If we went and got the stick you would not feel better, only vindicated. They still took something from you and they acted like you were not even there. That is what hurts. You did the right thing. You were outnumbered and you walked away. I’m proud of you.” Hug-time.
I’m not so sure I made a big impression with my, “it’s just a stick talk,” because all day he came up with ways he was going to get those kids. He said he would get a hockey stick and trip them. He had a rolling pen that he was going to bop their heads with. He was going to kill them. We went to the mall last night and when he threw a coin in the fountain to make a wish, he wished that he was big enough to fight those kids and beat them. At the end of the night when it was time to go to bed, he had one final thing to do to them. He said, “I know, I will take their mom and they won’t have a mom. That will hurt them for sure!”
My heart melted. Like anyone, I want my child to be happy every moment of his life, but I know this is impossible. I am glad that I was there to be with him after his let down. Every time he mentioned it afterwards, I listened to him. I hugged him. I told him no matter how hard the world gets I will always have a soft place for him.

I went to bed knowing that my son made a good decision in a tough moment. Now I just hope I did.

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2 Responses to Fight or Flight

  1. It takes real guts to let your kids fight their own battles! Nate learned the important part of that day, that he will always have a safe place wherever his mom is.

  2. Brenda says:

    Yes! You sure did make the right decision! And maybe, knowing how it feels, he will never do that to another kid.

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