Joe Boughner: The Naked Dad


I'm Sorry, Your Kid Is Acting Like An Ass

When Is It Appropriate To Call Attention To Preschool Douchebaggery?

Okay look, I would never say a three-year-old is an asshole. Frankly, they aren't formed enough as people to make such a bold declaration. But there are absolutely, without question, times when kids act like TOTAL asshats. It just happens. It's not their fault, really. Life is complicated and they are still learning how to cope and how to react. I get it. But to pretend that kids DON'T sometimes comport themselves with the highest level of douchebaggery? That's just delusional, man.

So are we good? We can all agree that acting like an ass does not equal being an ass? 

Cool. On with my story.

Over the holidays, my daughter and I spent a couple of hours hanging out at a local kid-friendly coffee shop. You know the typebig padded play room in the back with well used toys and no fewer than three bottles of hand sanitizer. We've been there a few times and the kid always has a blast. And she really likes the giant play structure they have.

Now, the kiddo has struggled a bit with sharing lately and as an only child, she's not exposed to other kids on a daily basis or anything. So, when a brother and sister pairing showed up at one point with their mom, I was kind of curious to see how it would go. You can imagine I was thrilled when she actually made an effort to engage with these kids.

The sister was the older of the two and, as I learned later, was closing in on six, so she wasn't overly keen on playing with my girl (who is a couple of weeks shy of three), but she was nice about it. She did play on the teeter totter with her for awhile, and she helped her get some chalk to draw with. All good there.

The brother, though? Acted like a first-rate ass. Turns out he was celebrating his third birthday, so perhaps his attitude was the result of having a day devoted to celebrating all things him, but he was rude, disobedient, and reckless. 

On top of all of this, it was pretty clear from the start that his mom was using this outing as a bit of a respite. She got the kids a drink and plopped down on the bench, letting them loose while she lost herself in her smart phone. And hey, we've all been there. I'm not going to judge her for giving herself a bit of a breaklet he who was without sin and all that. 

But the son, left to his own devices, got more and more standoffish and rude. When he finally refused to let my daughter on "his" play structure, badgering her to the point of tears, I felt a sense of helplessness and rage that I've never felt before. There I was, watching with pride as my somewhat shy daughter tried to play with other kids and do the right thing, and some kid was ruining it. 

All I could do was console her and tell her she was being very nice and that the boy had no right to say those things to her. At this point his mom intervened, ultimately dragging him out kicking and screaming after he refused to apologize. I was grateful that my daughter could see there were consequences for acting like such a douche canoe, but when she looked at me with a tear-streaked face and asked why he was being mean, I was totally at a loss. 

Once the waters calmed and it was just the two of us again, I tried to tell her how proud I was of her for sharing and playing nice, but it turns out kids don't really see the moral victory that comes with taking the high road. And I had to wonder if I should've intervened earlier. I saw what was happening. Should I have asked the mother to get involved when it was clear that his behaviour was affecting my daughter's ability to enjoy the shared play space? Should I have spoken to the kid directly?

I want my daughter to be independent. I can't fight every battle for her and have no desire to do so. And the reality is, sometimes people act like asses. But should my preschooler have to learn that lesson now?