Have you ever stared down an 18 month old that you've never seen before in your life? We went to the mall again this weekend. Playland on a Sunday afternoon; every parent's worst nightmare.
The babies were playing on the slide.
I was standing right there because I'm simply not comfortable sitting all the way over on the side on the adult benches. I think they are just too far away, and, in this instance, I was right.
A little girl, just two-thirds the height of my kids, walked right up to Dulce, and shoved her. Dulce looked up at me - shocked - looked back at the little girl - wide-eyed - and back at me again. By this time, I was on my knees, my arms around my baby, staring at the strange girl. We locked eyes.
"Don't hit my kid," I said calmly but with a bit of grit, talking to a baby as if she were an adult. "Don't ever hit my kid."
The strange girl was still looking at me when Dulce decided to tentatively push her back - a weak, ineffectual pat, that, nevertheless, forced me into action.
"Dulce, don't push her. There is no pushing. Ever."
At this point, there is a baby stalemate, and so I switch tactics.
"Can you give her a hug? Let's hug."
The two babies are hugging with great affection by the time the other mother has gotten off the adult bench to take care of her kid.
"Tell her you're sorry," said the other mother. The baby just looked at her.
"They've already hugged and made up," I said. "It's okay." What I meant, of course, was parent your kid so I don't have to parent her for you.
As the babies and I are leaving Playland, I see this girl push and topple over a little boy, and I laughed. Bullying at 18 months; I couldn't believe it.
The moral of this story? Always watch your kids closely. If they're not pushing someone, they're being pushed, and if they're not pushing or being pushed, they're seeing it happen around them. If we, as parents, don't step in and tell them what behavior is not acceptable, they'll never know. Parent your kids, and everybody wins.