Littlebun was playing capture the flag while Miss I climbed on the playground afterschool. Mothers of the other boys chatted as I watched Miss I climb -- not too high, not too fast, you're just getting over pneumonia, don't set off your asthma . . .
All of a sudden Littlebun was running towards me, hand covering his mouth, eyes wide. Blood dripped between his fingers. For the first time -- and I desperately hope last -- Littlebun had been punched in the face.
Miss I stayed with my friend while I ran Littlebun home. Inside, I immediately set to cleaning his face to see the damage -- Littlebun was most concerned that he would need plastic surgery again (see April 2006 for that fun story). His lips were both split, but no harm was done to his teeth and no stitches were required.
We returned to the playground to fetch Miss I and to show his friends that all was mostly well, but by the time we arrived the offender had already been removed from the situation.
Littlebun was really shaken. He wasn't angry. He was sad. He spent much of last evening trying to figure out how he could have prevented it, unhappy with the possibility that the violence had been relatively unprovoked (he tagged the child, consistent with the game's rules). If it were his fault, he could find a way to be sure it would never happen again.
I was shaken, too. Something really horrible had happened to my baby, and I was right there and didn't prevent it. And now I wonder if I mishandled the aftermath.
Then of course came the questions of response: Should I have said something to the other child's mother? She had seen it happen, and was apparently as shocked as anyone else. I neither scolded nor assuaged her guilt. All of my attention was on my son and the gush of blood.
But in my own lack of outrage, did I convey to Littlebun that it was okay -- even inevitable -- that he would be the victim of violence, when I was trying to deal with the practicalities (finding the source of the bleeding)? Did I accidentally convey to Littlebun, to the other mothers, to the other child involved, that "Boys will be boys"? Littlebun says no, and he has a clear understanding of what "poor impulse control" means (thanks to another child in his class), but even so . . .
Today he has two fat lips and he's missing the spring in his step and I wish I could do something to help him get it back.