Friday, December 30, 2005

Taking Up For Baby

A recent event made me think about my responsibility as a mom to take up for my baby. When we were visiting relatives, a particularly bully-ish five-year-old nephew stuck his nose against my son's nose. My son scratched his cousin; I scolded my baby (who understands no but does not obey it). The cousin did it again and again. After the fourth time, when he was looking to me for sympathy because my baby scratched him yet again, I said, "I don't feel sorry for you because you're asking for it."

Later I wondered if I was being too mean to my nephew. I really do not think so although I do believe that one of his parents, both of whom were in the room, should have said something to him instead of forcing me to. Still, it made me think about how much I need to defend my baby.

I found it somewhat amusing that my son's natural instinct was to fight back. As he is too young to understand other people's pain or the consequences to his actions, I am left to believe only that his fighting against his space being invaded was purely animal instinct. He felt threatened and he fought back.

Still, as a parent of a baby, you should be prepared for this type of fight. Other people will touch and otherwise bother your child, even when he or she is still a baby. You should be prepared to fight back by using one of these methods.

When another child invades your child's space or is mean, you should ask that child to stop. Say it nicely the first time. "Oh, no, honey, please don't touch the baby's head."

Do not be so nice after that. You should get firmer gradually. If the child continues past two or three times, you should bring up the situation to an adult who is responsible for the child. If the adult is in another location, then you should bring the child in and explain the situation. If the adult is in the room, then there is little need to be polite. Do not be rude but do be firm. "Excuse me. Can you take care of this?"

While this may seem unfair, I think that beyond this point if the parents do not bother stopping the behavior, you have two ultimate choices. Scold the child who is causing the problem or leave; probably doing both would work best. I do not believe that it is my place to fuss at other people's children, but I think that it is acceptable to do so when my own child is at stake. At this point, you can say, "no, your behavior is unacceptable. Do not do it again." Do not yell but be firm.

If you decide to leave, explain to the parents as well as the host or hostess (if you are at someone's house) that you have to leave because you cannot allow your child to be bullied. Make everyone aware of the problem so that there are no misunderstandings when you leave.

In retrospect, I may have handle the situation with my nephew poorly. Perhaps I should have asked my sister-in-law and brother-in-law to take care of the problem instead of continuing to allow my baby to scratch another child. I do not want to teach my son to bully himself, but I will not have him mistreated by other children.

I have realized that whether it is old ladies telling you how to dress or raise your child in the supermarket or children who are roughhousing far too close to your own child that defending your baby is one of the biggest chores of the first year. I learned quickly, as I believe that many mothers do, that I have to defend my baby whenever possible. I deflect joking comment about his rooster hair, point out that that our doctor said he is developmentally advanced when listening to why all of my nephews are undiscovered geniuses, and allow him to defend himself with other children try to bother him. It is odd, too, how much it is instinct - how quickly my blood will boil if anyone else tries to do anything that may harm my child. He is, after all, his mother's baby.

By Julia Mercer

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