Friday, June 13, 2008

A Little More Intense than Sibling Rivalry

Imagine the following…

You’re walking out into a hallway, at church, having just finished your plate at a potluck and go to check on your children, who’d gone off to play after finishing their meal before you, before class begins. You’re walking and talking with your girlfriend when you see your child on the floor, being hit, kicked, hair pulled and hearing her screaming as two other children are laughing and grunting about what they are doing.

Within seconds, you realize one of the two perpetrating children is your own son. I had a very visceral reaction Wednesday night, and thoughts about it continued to plague me yesterday, hence the depressing post.

It was all I could do to not pick those two boys up and throw them across the hall with the fury that they had attacked someone, anyone, but especially my daughter, so viciously – first, I had to comfort my child who’d been so hurt and was terrified.

As I did so, Punkinhead and his partner in this heinous crime fled the scene.

The other little boy is a bad influence on Punkinhead and always has been. He’s always been really aggressive - used to “bully” Punkinhead when they were toddlers (in quotes because as toddlers it’s hard to say what’s intentional versus instinctual) and Punkinhead actually used to be scared of him. Lately, however, it seems that Punkinhead’s a fan of this kid and whenever they are together, Punkinhead gets in trouble.

I scraped LMNOB up off the floor and held her as we walked down to the potluck where Charlie Brown was talking with some men.

I interrupted, saying, “We need to find Punkinhead now; he and his friend were just out in the hallway beating the crap out of LMNOB on the floor. They took off, and we need to find them - Punkinhead is SO IN TROUBLE!” I said, voice shaking.

I hadn’t even noticed the other boy’s father standing in the vicinity.

I went to go help Charlie Brown, when I heard him call out, “Heather, hey – what’s going on?”

I turned, and tried to keep my calm. “Our sons,” I choked out, “ganged up on LMNOB and had her pinned down on the floor upstairs, hitting her and kicking her.” LMNOB at my side, was still crying and trying to calm down.

He was immediately concerned and began looking for his son too.

Charlie Brown found them first, in the men’s bathroom. Apparently he had a stern talking to with Punkinhead, the other boy and the other father.

Later I kept cool, and quiet, while the other boy’s mother explained that LMNOB might have instigated it by "bossing" the two about where they could or couldn’t go in the hallway, as she’d seen that happen earlier in the night. This was after they'd made their son apologize to LMNOB – which he’d done, albeit without remorse and with a shit-eating grin on his face the whole time. This was hard, as I wanted to rage against her and ask if it’s ok for men to rape women who dress provocatively, if screams of “No” are canceled out by the perceived injustice of being told what to do, and if it had been her child, how would she have liked me to try and rationalize it down to “boys will be boys?” This was fucking violence, not some kids who got a little rough!

I knew I was too raw, too biased by my own abuses and experience with a “Christian” father who felt that “I’m sorry and God forgives me, will you” was sufficient penitence for molesting me because I had reminded him of my mother when they had been young.

I'm horrified that Punkinhead did this. Period. If it had been another boy that he’d injured, it would be just as disturbing to me. But add to it my own experiences, coupled with LMNOB’s cries of no and to stop, that it was multiple boys being violent to a single girl, etc, etc. and I'm just sick.

LMNOB had bruises yesterday.

Punkinhead has been talked to and talked to and talked to. He has had many of his privileges (TV, Computer, Xbox) removed for an indefinite amount of time, and when restored will be a much more restricted menu – i.e. no superheroes, no Power Rangers, or any of the other aggressive good v. bad kind of shit that he's recently become fond of.

We have approached things from the safety perspective, moral (Jesus is upset) perspective, and an empathic perspective (made him look at her bruises and asked him how he would have felt, and how it feels to see just how badly he hurt her).

Punkinhead has been going thru a really trying time of late - and I know part of it is the age. 5 y/o's are known for testing and testing and testing just to see if mom and dad REALLY mean what they say - and it's wearing. I also know that I have not been able to be as consistent with him as I would like to be lately because of my depression. Charlie Brown is, as a parent, on a different page as I am much of the time with him. He goes more with what is “easy” for him and convenient for him, which often times is not consistency, nor the actual discipline that Punkinhead needs at the moment. I strive for consistency and do the “not fun” things that usually mean my sacrifice in order to get him the message that he needs to hear; however, with me being the only one doing this, I have recently caved more in moments of battle fatigue. Punkinhead in turn has capitalized on this opportunity and worked it to his advantage.

However, he is in for a rude awakening. Charlie Brown and I have talked about becoming more of a unified parental unit and doing the hard work of being consistent within our boundaries.

The logical consequences that we have given to both LMNOB and Punkinhead are that they will no longer have the privilege of playing during “passing times" at church anymore. They are to always be accompanied by Charlie Brown or myself. I told LMNOB that this is as much a safety measure for her (that it doesn’t happen again) as it is a discipline measure for Punkinhead (that it doesn’t happen again). The Little Punk is definitely off-limits. We limited their interaction before, and now, other than with adult supervision in classes (since they are the same age) there will be no interactions allowed.

We have books about kindness, respect, etc. for character traits we would like to see, and we will be reading those more frequently as Punkinhead just seems to not be getting it.

LMNOB has had many moments with me where we talked about how this should not have happened, but it did. How even good people we love can make really huge, bad, mistakes. How I [and Daddy] am committed to protecting her and how I hope she sees that we are taking this very seriously – that Punkinhead is not getting off easily. But, that how even though we are disappointed with Punkinhead, we still love him very much, and want to make sure he learns from this mistake and never ever does it again. We’ve broached forgiveness with her, which has been a little tough. She doesn’t quite get it right now, and that’s ok, I told her – she is allowed to have some time.

As for the other mother. She knows that the boys were being really violent, not just kids roughhousing – as Charlie Brown had talked to both her and the father about it. And yet she still made that comment to me – so at this point I think it is just not worth it to “go there,” not without me making a complete ass out of myself with my mother bear tendencies when she defends with boys are just boys, they’re too young to realize the impact of what they did, et cetera, fucking etc.

© 2008 Ramblings of a Red-Headed Step-Child. All Rights Reserved


  1. Oh Heather, I'm so sorry. For what it's worth, it sounds like you're doing an amazing job of handling the situation. Every ounce of my being wants to go scream at that punk's mother that she's raising a misogynist brat, but I think it would fall on deaf ears.

    Good for you for protecting your daughter, and for teaching your son that it's NOT o.k., even though other boys aren't raised as well. I hope I'd be 1/2 the mom that you are if I ever had kids.

  2. You are handling the situation appropriately. I am sickened by this as if it were my own children. That is not boys being boys and they should never think it's "what we do" as a male. I'm sorry you dealt with this!!

  3. This is so out of my league Heather. I am so sorry this has happened. I'm sick for you. Big Big Hugs. I'm thinking of you ALL at this time.

  4. Wow. I think you handled it correctly too. Even if she was being bossy (and I'm not saying she was) that does not justify violent behavior and that mother gave you a dumb ass response! "Boys will be boys" is when boys duke it out with each other and get it out of their system, NOT two boys beat up a little girl.

    Friend, I would be enraged too, and I think "not going there" with the other mother AT THIS TIME is a good idea. You're too emotional and need to be calm. I do think that eventually you'll need to have that talk just so you don't have bad feelings between you. It's really hard to make peace and forgive when you're seeing red. Been there. :)

    I get the mother bear's both a gift and a curse. lol You're a good mom Heather. You're teaching Punkinhead what is and isn't o.k.and he WILL learn. You're loving on LMNOB and making sure she knows that's not o.k. to be treated like that. As for Charlie Brown, I'm glad you had the talk about getting on the same page. You're not a single parent and shouldn't be treated as such. I know you guys will work it out. I'll be praying for you friend!

    One more thing...I feel your pain. I wonder if we'll ever see the world through glasses not fogged up by the history of violence we ourselves have lived through. Extra sensitivity is normal for you and me.

  5. I'm so sorry. I can only imagine how you felt when you saw that, it makes me hurt just to think of it. It sounds like you're dealing with it well.
    My son has always argued and picked at his younger sister, and although it's never been to that level, he's done things to her that upset me so much! It's like a knife to the heart when one of your children intentionally hurts the other.

  6. Oh my God, Heather, I can't even imagine.

    I think the way you are handling the situation is perfect, though.

    Since words from you about the other mom's "boys will be boys attitude" will probably fall on deaf ears and since the attack occurred at church, do you think that a word to your pastor about it might do good? The other mom seems to need a refresher on Christ's view of violence.

  7. I'm so sorry. I know how upset I would be if my kids were involved in perpetrating that type of a situation. When I add the need to protect my other child all I can say is that you're handling this much more gracefully than I would.

    I'm sorry that the other mother is enabling her son's bad behavior. Letting it go is probably the better decision, but I can understand wanting to rage at her until she understands.


  8. You are handling this so well. You're a great mom! I have no words of wisdom, just wanted to say I read your post and you're doing great.

    Also, (and I am in NO WAY comparing this story to yours or trivializing what happened), but, my son exhibited a flash of out of the blue cruel violence one afternoon that left me shaken. He picked up a huge rock and struggled with it over to where our neighbor's cat was sunny and was about to drop it on the animal's head when I got there. I couldn't believe it. Just pure meanness. It might have killed the cat. I have never been so stunned. He's normally a very sweet boy. I don't if I have a point except that I don't think it's abnormal for kids to experiment with such behavior.