I’ve done it, I’ve had to tell off someone else’s child. It’s not even someone I know – although, in many ways that may be even worse – no it’s a stranger’s child. He’s run off now, in tears, back to his mother. And you know what? I don’t feel a little bit bad.
Want to know why? Then read on….
It’s a crisp Thursday afternoon and me and the kids are at our local nature reserve. We come here regularly and, despite it having an official name, my children have christened it ‘Paddington*’, after the over 7-foot-tall stuffed ‘cuddly’ bear that stands in the visitors’ centre. I have no idea what the thinking behind this bear is. There are numerous animals – real ones – that are stuffed and on display in the visitors centre, so why they would shove a fake giant bear in there is beyond me. Bears aren’t native to the UK, not the last time I checked anyway. And do please let me know if this situation changes.
It’s not just because of the giant bear though, often when we go in there to do our craft-based activities my son makes me draw things for him in parts…I’d better explain that.
He likes me to draw anything, say a lion for example, but draw its legs, its head its body etc in separate parts for him to then colour in and glue on to a separate piece of paper. It usually works, but most of the time he will want me to draw something that I need to use my phone for, and the signal is weak there, so this can take some time. Anyway, for weeks and weeks his favourite thing for me to draw in this dismembered fashion was Paddington Bear, after watching the film 38 times one weekend (this is not possible, yet it felt like it was).
But I digress.
As a rule the order of our days out at ‘Paddington’ goes as follows:
- Mess around in the external play area, on the climbing frames, swings and slides until I have had enough and one or both children are sufficiently dirty.
- Enter the visitors’ centre and play with the crafts for an hour or so or until one or both kids tires and begins dismantling the centre, or fighting with each other (or a combination of the two).
- Head off to the lake and feed the ducks, swans and geese.
It’s during our feeding of the local avian population that I notice the boy. He’s about 9-years-old and is stood with his friend near the swans. They both have their faces painted, but then it is Halloween soon and this is nothing unusual. What does draw my attention though is how close he is to the young swans – they are almost adult-size, but still have their grey ‘down’ – and, more importantly, the large stick that he has in his hands.
He isn’t on his own, his mum is stood about ten feet behind us, but she seems preoccupied with her other kids. So it’s left for me to watch my own kids and keep an eye on her son as well. Because he keeps looking at me, and I don’t like the look in his eyes.
I should add that the geese and swans at this reserve are fairly used to people, and so they get very, very close:
See what I mean?
So the first time this young boy raises his stick at the young swan I let it go, thinking he’s just scared. However the second time, when he looks at me, smiling, and hits it on the foot, I don’t let it go. I put on my ‘dad voice’ – and I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, and tell him that I would rather he didn’t do that again (or words to that effect – but no swearing, even though I am very angry).
His reaction is immediate, he begins wailing, drops the stick and runs straight over to his mum. She immediately questions the reasons for his tears and I, hearing this, turn around and tell her what I’ve done. She stares at me blankly for a moment, as if mentally weighing up what to do, but then comes down on my side and admonishes her son as well.
It’s a line that I don’t like crossing, but I firmly believe that some instances demand that other people step in and ‘lend a hand’. It takes a village, as the saying goes, to raise a child.
I just hope my kids never raise a hand towards one of this planet’s fair creatures and, if they do, I hope that if I’m not there someone else will step in, and tell them off for me.
*He’s currently obsessed with Super Mario, and so now wants me to refer to it as ‘Mario’ I don’t think it has quite the same ring to it myself.