When Anna was in first grade, at a new school, I went to pick her up one day. Her friends Annie and Sydney were coming over for a play date, so we all met up outside Anna's classroom. As we walked toward the car, Anna started telling me how this girl, Sarah, had punched her at recess. Punched my baby. I have never even spanked my child, and believe me, there were a few times where it took every ounce of super-human strength I had not to swat her butt, just for the instant-gratification it might have given me. By "a few times" I mean basically her ENTIRE THIRD YEAR on this planet.
Anyway, Anna is telling me about this girl punching her and Annie and Sydney are chiming in saying "Yeah, Sarah is really mean! And she never gets in trouble for it."
By now we're in the car; I'm clucking and offering sympathy when all of a sudden, they all three yell "There she is! That's the girl!" Foolishly, I say "Anna, do you want me to say something to her?" and all three of them are shouting "Yes! Go get her! Let her have it!" And because I am essentially a 7 year old myself, I pull the car over right next to the curb where the unsuspecting bully is minding her own business, walking home from school with her older brother. I walk up to her, bend down to her level (both literally and figuratively, I'm afraid) and say "Hi. My name is Kate. I'm Anna R's mom. I hear you hit her today." She stopped dead in her tracks, eyes wide. "I don't want you to ever hit her, or anybody else, ever again. You got it?" She nodded silently. "Good" I said and strode, triumphantly, back to the car to the cheers and disbelief the girls.
Oh yes. I did.
Of course I am duly mortified now, because in hindsight I realize that that day? My daughter was not bruised or bleeding. If she had been punched there would have been physical damage, right? And no teacher is going to let that behavior go unpunished. Most likely it was a typical playground shove is all. And so every time I've seen that little girl in the two years since, I am ashamed of myself. Far more, I'm sure, than she ever was about having decked (or pushed) my daughter.
The thing is, this girl is wonderfully unique: she has super short hair and she wears nothing but baggy shorts and football jerseys. I am certain she will grow up to be, at minimum, a bull-dyke and possibly even transgendered. So of course, being the rebel-without-a-cause that I am, I want Anna to be friends with her. But I've always felt guilty that I ruined the chances of that the day I confronted her on that sidewalk.
And then today, I got a phone call from an unfamiliar number.
"Hi. Um....do you have a kid named Anna?" she asked, in her Tatum O'Neal-in-Paper Moon voice.
"This is Sarah (last name omitted to protect the innocent). I was wondering if she could come over and play on my new slip 'n' slide today."
Anna wasn't available to play because she was at her grandma's house in the valley, but as I write this? I am seriously considering putting on my swimming suit and showing up on Sarah's doorstep with a football under one arm to ask if I can play on that slip 'n' slide with her. Because apparently she either forgot or forgave my actions that day.
And out of gratitude, I promise to never be one of those moms again.