Dear fellow parent:
“That’s not a nice boy” is not something you say to your daughter while the three year old you are talking about is looking you in the eye. He was not even my son, so I should probably mind my own business. Even his mom may have not noticed. But I can’t let it go. I can’t because I heard you and I care, you see?
We were in the waiting room of a large outpatient center, a boisterous room full of kids who had just gotten out of school. For what I heard, he had pushed your daughter, while we were all waiting for 4:00 to ring in and the therapists to come out and get the kids. That’s when I heard you utter those words, in a nasty tone, while you told your lovely little girl “Don’t play with him”. Even if that boy pushed your daughter, he is three. And the only person not being nice here is you, fellow parent.
Because I’m sure that the little boy, who left all puzzled and sad, sullen, is nice. An even if he is not, no kid is in that waiting room because he or she has an easy life. Kids with easy lives don’t belong in that waiting room, as you may know. He probably had a long day at school, a long commute, and now he is waiting to go to therapy. The reason why your daughter and my son are in that waiting room are very visible, obvious, physical needs.
Everyone can see that my son has cochlear implants, that he is deaf. But that little boy, neither you nor I know what brought him there. The fact that there is no public sign of a difference sometimes makes kids’ lives even harder. This little boy you didn’t even face while berating him may be autistic, ODD, ADHD or any other combination of letters which meaning I hope you never have to figure out.
That little boy has feelings, and his feelings are as important as your daughter’s. Obviously, as her father, you care more about her, and that’s natural, and normal, and healthy. But I wish you would have thought for a minute before uttering your words of choice, in the derogatory tone you used. I wish you had thought for a second of the consequences that our words can have in others, of how impressionable a preschooler can be, especially by the words of an unknown man, of a father.
Of the impact a couple of sentences can have in the self confidence of a little human being. I know that we are tired, and multitasking while we drive our kids from one appointment to another, while trying to work and keep our sanities. But I can think of several nicer ways of comforting your daughter. “That boy is not acting well”. “That boy is having a rough moment, let’s give him some space”. “He prefers to play alone”. I could go on. You get the picture.
Instead, you told him, and her, and anyone within earshot, that he was not a nice boy. You belittled him. You labeled him. You humiliated him. A three year old him. Who didn’t need to hear more to leave, and retreat to a corner. Almost hidden. While your daughter, and my son, and the rest of the kids on that busy waiting room kept playing, and running, and giggling, and pushing each other. All, but that little boy.
Dear fellow parent, I am far from perfect, and make a thousand mistakes a day. But I just wanted to remind you that, sometimes, words can hurt more than actions. Even little boys who won’t cry because they are trying to be brave can be hurt. Because, little boys have feelings too.
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