Have you ever experienced unfair treatment for no apparent reason? Say, a store clerk is overly rude or a police officer busts you for going six miles over the speed limit or another driver cuts you off as your lanes merge? Perhaps, you’re angry for a while or maybe you give her the benefit of the doubt and think, “She must be having a rough day.”
These unpleasant encounters happen all the time for all sorts of reasons. As frustrating as it can be, we’re somewhat accustom to these offenses in the adult world.
But has it ever happened to your child … in front of you?
A few Fridays ago, I took Bunder and Kiki to a toddler, open-gym time at a local Capital Gymnastics. Bunder loves the place. They have a pit with blue, foam blocks, trampolines, low balance beams, a trampoline track, monkey bars, and many different shaped mats to climb.
At the start of the open gym time, the coach asks everyone to sit in a circle for stretches and a review of the rules. (This is crazy! Can’t she see we have toddlers – not teenagers?) Bunder of course screams bloody- murder every time I stop him from running to the blue foam pit – which happens about every ten seconds. COME ON! He’s two! All he wants to do is run and play. Doesn’t the coach know two-year olds have a problem with delayed gratification?
“Let’s sit and look at all the fun and pretty equipment while we talk and point to it and explain with many words what you can’t do on it. Oh, look at that trampoline! Doesn’t that look fun? Don’t you want to run and jump on it? First, I need to tell you to jump with your feet and only one at a time. What’s that? You don’t know what ‘one at a time means?’ Well here, let me show you. Look at me bouncing on the trampoline! See isn’t it fun? No one else is bouncing on it? Right? That’s ‘one at a time.’ What’s that? I can’t hear you over the screaming children.”
Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but no lie – the coach did try to sit everyone in a circle and explain the rules while demonstrating stretches.
During the next hour, Bunder runs around like crazy, and I bounce and carry and haul Kiki every which way trying to keep up with him. (One of the rules is parents must be within arm’s length of their children at all times).
Well, wouldn’t you know it – Bunder runs onto the trampoline while another child is on it. Two steps behind, breathing heavily, carrying Kiki, I catch up to him to pull him off, but not before the coach can pounce on him and sternly reprimand him for breaking the rules. She goes on at length about how important it is to have only one person on the trampoline at a time and wait your turn and blah, blah, blah. Bunder stares at her as if she has a talking goat coming out of her head. I say, “Don’t worry. I’ve got him. I was just catching up!”
This event strikes me as odd, because I haven’t seen the coach rebuke any other children even though, as you can imagine, plenty of toddlers are having trouble remembering the rules. I don’t have time to ponder this for long, because Bunder’s about to run down the trampoline track in the wrong direction. “Oh, no! Not again!”
Before I can reach poor Bunder, the coach grabs him once more and commences another lecture. If I wasn’t so disturbed by the coach’s apparent prejudice against my son, I might find it funny – an adult attempting to lecture a two-year old.
After several more incidences similar to this, I realize I’m not imagining things. This coach has it out for my baby. I stick to Bunder like white on rice, preventing the coach from coming anywhere near him.
Five minutes before the hour is up, the coach turns off the music and calls all kids over for their special stamps. All across the gym, parents round up, plead, beg, bride their kids toward the door for their stamps. Bunder, Kiki, and I arrive in the midst of the crowd and I instruct Bunder to sit and wait for his turn.
Of course, with two and three-year olds a line doesn’t form. They gather in a conglomerate mess edging for the coach’s stamp. I watch as Bunder sits in the middle waiting. The coach works left to right sweeping back and forth stamping the kids hands. Just when it looks like Bunder’s turn, she skips over him and moves onto the other children. Bunder sits and waits and waits and waits.
Pretty soon all the children have stamps and are leaving the gym. Bunder (bless his heart) remains in the same spot on the floor waiting for his stamp. This is when it gets interesting.
Up until this point, I have TRIED to give the coach the benefit of the doubt, “Oh, she must be jealous of Bunder’s exuberance for life – something she clearly lacks.”
But now – do you know what she does? With poor little Bunder sitting all alone on the gym floor waiting ever so good-naturedly for his stamp? She turns her back to him and starts talking to a parent.
I’m infuriated. Clearly, she has issues. What woman does this to a toddler? What did he ever do to her?
I reassure Bunder, “It’s okay. Just wait a little longer. You’ll get a stamp in just a minute.”
We wait … and wait …
I feel like the last person at the airline baggage claim. All the other passengers have long since picked up their bags and I remain – knowing the inevitable– not wanting to admit to myself my bag is lost. No matter how long I sit and watch the carousel go round and round, my bags are not coming. The dread. The doom. The misery.
Except I’m not watching a baggage carousel in some airport. I’m watching my own flesh and blood, my sweet, sweet child, sit and wait miserably for his stamp.
I say very loudly to Bunder, “Thank you for waiting so patiently. I’m sure your stamp is coming.”
The conversation ends. The coach turns toward me and says …
Are you ready for this? I’m not exaggerating. She says….
“It’s the first time he’s been patient ALL day.”
The nerve. The audacity.
I say, “What is your problem? Does it make you feel BIG to insult a two-year old? Are you sure you’re in the right line of work, because it’s not developmentally appropriate for two-year olds to control their impulsiveness. Perhaps you should get a job at the DMV where they make use of crabby, rule-loving witches.”
Okay. I don’t say any of that. I would have loved to but I didn’t. Quite frankly, I was so taken aback I didn’t say anything. I just glared at her giving her the worst evil eye I could muster.
In conclusion, Bunder got his stamp. We left never to return. I found anther Capital Gymnastics a little farther from our house but much nicer. Nothing in the gym is off limits, and they have a blow-up, bouncy train – which Bunder loves. The coach only explains rules when we have new visitors and she does so in the lobby – not in the gym. Every interaction she’s had with Bunder and Kiki is positive, upbeat and fun.
So, I realize Bunder’s only two, and certainly more experiences like this will follow. As much as I’d love to believe my children are perfect angels, I know they are not. I’m not naive enough to think they won’t rub other adults the wrong way in the future. This miserable taste of reality leaves a pit in my stomach. As a parent, I want to protect my children from these cruel happenings. Don’t we all? Don’t we, as parents, want to see our children happy, healthy, and well liked?
Have you ever experienced your child treated poorly by another adult? What did you do?