Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I am not always a good person

When you live in a tight neighborhood with lots of children conflict is bound to happen.

I live in a moderate to small sized apartment complex. Maybe about 40 apartments share a large courtyard. Plenty of room for kids to run around, fly kites, play football, and there's a pool too. Large.

There are about 6 families whose children are outside playing often. Mine, of course, and a close neighbor's are two. We often have problems with the children of a family who lives a couple of apartments down.

The children will take sidewalk chalk (recently banned by the apartment complex gestapo) and write lewd and course language on the sidewalk and stairs outside our apartments. Normally, I don't think anything of it, I just spray it off with a hose.

A while ago, these children and my girls got into a tussle. They went as far as to come to my house and tell me that my little girl was hitting them. Let me set the picture for you, my five-year-old daughter is TINY! Very, very small for her age. And she was four at the time. The youngest girl out of the three at my backdoor was 7. And a large 7. So, I apologized and talked to my girls. It was apparently my girl's fault that all this happened, however the other children were amply able to take care of themselves.

I have had other problems with these same group of children, but this sets the stage for what happened yesterday.

I came home from the gym after work and walked out back to a large kerfuffle. A large group of children were standing around. My youngest daughter was crying. My wife was asking children questions, and this one girl -- most often the ringleader of the group I have problems with -- was adamantly saying, "I didn't do it!"

Listening long enough to find out what was going on, I acted. Seems that the children were playing and this girl pushed my girl off of something ... I'm still shaky on details. At this point, I just wanted all these kids away from my apartment and my children. I walked forward and said something that no adult should ever say to a child. Not the way I said it. She said, "I didn't push her!" I said, "I don't believe you."

Now, that might not seem like a lot, but put that in context. Even though I didn't believe her -- hell, still don't believe her -- it was the wrong thing to do. She's 8 years old and was adamant in her belief that she did nothing wrong. I, as an authority figure shattered her wold with four simple words that didn't seem like much at the time. I just wanted to diffuse the situation and get the kids out of there. Which happened.

About 15 minutes later, the girl and her mother came back over. The mom was steamed. She wanted to find out what had happened, as would I were the situations reversed. But we got nowhere. No one was satisfied with anything that was said and the girl and her mom walked away.

But I went back inside and started to think about it. Her mom had said to my wife, "Your husband is a grown man." Which at the time, was kind of funny because her inarticulate argument wasn't making much sense. As I thought about it, and the impact of what any adult says to a child, I began to see her point. I went over to their apartment and apologized to the girl.

This is not to say that I believe the girl, I don't. She has a history of behavior that makes her believability suspect regardless of what's happening. But I never should have told her that.

Sometimes it's best to keep things to yourself.

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