This afternoon I took the kids to the local bounce house to blow off some energy. About a half an hour after we got there, a boy came in with his mom. He looked about Scorch’s age and Scorch was thrilled when another boy showed up to play.
He immediately asked if he could play with Scorch and Bean so my kids pulled him into their basketball game. Less then a minute later, Bean came out of the bounce house saying that John hit her in the neck. I didn’t think much of it as they were playing a very spirited game and, well, kids get hit. The boy’s mom piped up from her chair, “JOHN- no touching!”
Beaner sat by me and not a minute later, Scorch came out saying that John was pulling his hair.
Hmmm, well, that’s a little harder to do playing basketball so when John emerged from the bounce house right after Scorch, I just reminded all the kids that we keep our hands to ourselves when we play. I didn’t single out any of the kids, just issued a blanket statement. The kids all nodded and went back off to play. John’s mom didn’t look up from her phone.
A few minutes pass and Beaner comes out to sit by me because John was bothering her. John followed her over and slung an arm around her shoulder, messing with her hair, asking me if she was shy. Now Bean doesn’t really like to be touched so I told John as much and reminded him to please keep his hands to himself. The mom, sitting not 4 chairs over from me, yells at him to not touch.
Scorch and Bean are trying to play by themselves at this point, but John keeps following them around. I tried to come up with games (races, etc) the three kids could do that didn’t involve touching or rough housing but somehow John was always touching them. Bean finally gave up and came to sit by me but Scorch still wanted to play, so he tried to engage John in another basketball game. That quickly devolved into a game where John tried to peg Scorch in the face with the ball repeatedly. Again, I spoke up (loudly for the mom to hear, but not yelling) that we play nice or we don’t play together. Hitting our friends with a ball was not nice and won’t be allowed.
Mom yelled again at John from her seat. Which clearly had been really effective.
Scorch decided that basketball wasn’t the smartest idea, so he moved onto another bounce house that requires climbing a ladder up to a slide to get out. John followed and within seconds, I hear Scorch saying “Please stop touching me. Please stop. I said stop touching me.” I can’t see what’s going on, so I climbed into the bounce house to see Scorch trying to get up the ladder and John either smacking him lightly on the butt or yanking at his feet. At this point I finally raised my voice directly to John and told him to leave Scorch alone. That Scorch had asked him repeatedly to stop touching him and that he needed to listen. I was semi- yelling, speaking firmly, and John immediately agreed to stop and apologized.
The mom? She did nothing. She didn’t say a single thing to me or the kids as we left immediately after the last incident.
Based on some of the other things I saw John do, I tend to think he may have had some special needs. None of his touching seemed to be mean spirited in any way, it was simply like he didn’t know how to interact properly with the kids. By the time we left, both my kids were in tears wondering why John’s mom didn’t do anything to stop John’s behavior other then sit on her chair and yell his name a few times. And I was at a loss as to what to tell them. It was a really uncomfortable situation all around.
So what would you have done? Should I have engaged the mom more? Should I have raised my voice sooner at John? Should I have told the owners of the bounce house? Should we have just left? I feel badly that my kids ended up having a crappy time even though they, to their credit, did everything I’ve ever told them to do when someone is bothering them.