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Mistakes, Accidents, and an Apology

Last week I met a mom friend and her kids at one of those inflatable play places. When we got there we were the only ones in the place so we let our kids have free reign of the two rooms. We walked around watching the kids and chatted as they played. A couple of our kiddos talked us into going down the big slide. Our kids were having a ton of fun and were obeying the rules.

an old picture, from a previous excursion

After being there for a little over an hour and a half we sat down on a bench to talk. We noticed that a few other families had started to come in. It was now a little past lunch time so we gave our kids a five minute warning. Then we started talking and lost track of the five minutes. All sudden a dad came up asking if we had a boy wearing green. My boys were in purple and yellow so I said no and didn't think anything of it until a couple minutes later when the dad became visibly upset and shouted "I guess that little sh*t is here all by himself!" It was then that I noticed his wife holding their sobbing son. I suddenly became very worried about where my boys were and what had actually happened. I started to walk to the adjacent room just as my boys and their friends were coming through the doorway. When the dad raised his arms and clenched his fists, it was obvious that the boy he was speaking about was one of mine, or one of my friends. I asked him which boy it was...none of them were wearing green but later I would noticed that the robot on Mini Man's purple shirt had green boots and a helmet.

The dad, using some loud and colorful language, stated that Mini Man had been climbing up the slide and so his son had crashed into him. His mother joined us and their poor boy's face was swollen from crying and a black eye had already started to form. My emotions at this point were all over the place. I was remorseful - I should of been watching my kids more closely.  I was upset - I had explained to my boys that they needed to use the the equipment correctly. I was afraid - what was a going to happen? I was defensive - how dare he talk about my son that way, it was an accident.

I didn't catch it all but the dad continued to berate and insisted that I would be paying for their child's treatment...which would be costly. I was telling myself to stay calm, to breathe. I didn't do it consciously but I think I must of smiled or something because all the sudden they were rebuking me about laughing, "this isn't funny!" They were right, it wasn't funny. I wasn't holding laughter in, I was trying to not cry. I quickly told them, "I wasn't laughing". I apologized several times. My friend came to my defense..."you signed a waiver when you came play here, it was an accident, the place has insurance....etc."

Another mom went and got the lady from the front desk who offered the parents an ice pack for their son and started filling out an incident report. I started getting my children dressed, my friend said she would wait in the lobby with them until we got everything sorted out. The mom came over and demanded my phone number. I felt so guilty that I almost gave it to her but instead said that I didn't feel comfortable. I told her I would talk to the people at the front desk and leave my phone number with them. The mom threatened to file a police report and again asked for my phone number. I told her I'd gladly wait for the police but I didn't feel comfortable giving her my number. She walked away, back to her husband and son.

I shuffled my kids out to the lobby just in time to see three other moms from my church show up. They didn't say anything really, but just their faces calmed my nerves. I talked to the front desk personnel. She told me that there was nothing I needed to do. They had insurance if the family decided to take their son to the hospital but that she didn't think he would need medical treatment.

I took a few calming breathes and walked back in to the play area. I told them that I had talked to the front desk. That I was sorry. That I understood why they were so angry. That I had made a mistake by not keeping a closer eye on my son. I bent down and apologized to their son for him getting hurt. Their emotions had calmed. It was a painful incident but not, in the end, a tragedy and they accepted my apology.

My kids are used to apologizing; they make mistakes, accidents happen, feelings get hurt.  Apologizing is an art I want them to be good at. To not justify or give reason for their actions but to just to recognize the someone is hurt and to say sorry for whatever role they played in that pain. I was, however, going to let Mini Man slide this time. The parents were so upset early and it was obvious that he was shaken. However, when he saw the boy and his family come out into the lobby, he asked me if I'd walk over with him so he could apologize. He told them that he was sorry, he'd made a mistake by climbing the slide and that he hoped the boy would feel better. He then handed the boy a pack of fruit snacks. The parents smiled and said it's ok and the boy said "I forgive you." Since it was obvious they were heading home I offered to pay for tickets so they could some back again, but they turned me down saying that the front desk had already refunded their money.

It was such a turn around from thirty minutes ago - we were smiling at each other! Their anger was intense at first, and it was a little off-putting. My friend was offended for me...she's a good friend. I, however, can understand their exasperation. This boy was their first and only. Even if he wasn't, I think our kids have the ability to make us fighters. One of our parental instincts is to protect and defend them. There was a part me that was ready to yell back at them, to defend my Mini Man. I'm glad I was able to hold my tongue though...I'm so grateful that we were able to part in peace.

On the way home, Mini Man was silent. When we got home I helped him with his coat and hugged him and he burst into tears. He'd seen an ambulance on the way home and got confused thinking it was for the little boy. He's loves to take risks and to push boundaries but he's also a sensitive soul. I had to remind him a couple times of our final conversation with that family; that the boy was ok and that he'd smiled at him. He was so afraid that he'd really hurt/upset someone.

It was an exhausting day! It was a hard lesson and I will definitely be keeping a better eye on my kids when we are in public places. I, however, am also proud of myself that I didn't let my defensiveness take over. That I didn't let my mixed up emotions turn into anger. That I was able to calmly stand-up for myself; I stood my ground and didn't give out my number. Most of all I'm proud of Mini Man. He did the right thing even though it was hard and a bit scary. We have some work to do when it comes to curbing his impulsivity, but I'm continually in awe of his mature love and heart for people


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