My Mommy Maternity Leave ended a long time ago, and so now I'm totally back in the game of pick up and drop off and playdate hosting and after school playground-ing. Mostly, its going OK and I'm handling the immersion back into playground politics plus baby pretty well. But the other day on the playground, something happened which made me realize that I am still under the influence of powerful Mommy hormones. I am in Hyper Mother Bear Mode now and if you fuck with my baby bears, yoll probably get mauled. Even if you're also a baby bear. I blame the oxytocin.
It was a lovely spring afternoon after school and the kids were bounding around the playground, narrowly avoiding more tooth-chipping experiences. Within a few minutes, Sec came running over to me, where I was nursing Terza, and said, "Mommy! Mommy! This bad boy punched me!"
Now, Sec tends to get into scrapes and it is sometimes hard to discern who is to blame. She also can sometimes be sensitive to injury, so I try not to get too reactive. I try to let her work shit out. Especially when I'm in the middle of suckling my newborn.
"Well, if you don't like how he's playing, just stay away from him," I counseled her. She was off and running before I'd even finished my sentence.
Less than five minutes later and she was back, this time hysterically crying. You should know that my daughter is basically made of steel and can withstand terrific assaults on her person: this is probably a result of being beaten down by her big brother for several years now. When she was 4, a first grader punched her right in the gut and she didn't even shed a tear. She's one tough cookie and it takes a LOT to make her cry. So when I saw her crying so hard she wasn't making any sound, I got alarmed. And mad.
"What happened?" I asked, trying not to sound like I was freaking out.
She couldn't speak for a minute or two, just sputtered and gagged on her tears. Then finally she said, "He punched me. Really hard."
That was all the information I needed.
"Where is he?" I asked, trying to mask the quiver in the voice that clearly indicated I was on the brink of a rage fit, "Bring me to the boy."
Sec took my hand and led me, with my newborn strapped to my chest, through the crowded playground, until we got to a very small blond boy wearing a Ramones T-shirt.
"This him?" I asked, nodding in the little boy's direction, just like I was a mobster.
Sec nodded and then darted away as fast as she could, hiding herself under the playground equipment. This wasn't in my plan. My plan was to stand by Sec as she communicated her feelings to the little boy, providing emotional support and guidance but letting her do the heavy lifting herself. But though I tried to cajole her out of her hiding place, she wouldn't budge. And the boy was looking at me expectantly. And I was mad. So I decided to wing it. Never a good idea in my case, especially with all the oxytocin.
"That's my daughter over there," I pointed to Sec hiding under the monkey bars, "Did you punch her?"
"You hurt her. Very badly. See how she's crying?"
He looked un-fazed.
"Well, why, WHY did you hit her?" I asked.
"My friend told me to," he replied matter-of-factly.
I was dumbstruck -- but only momentarily.
"Now you listen to me," I said, leaning down so I was at his eye level, "You do not hit my daughter. I don't care who tells you to. Don't punch her, don't chase her, don't hit her. Ever again."
I came close, very close, to adding an "Or else," but I stopped myself. Instead I said:
"Do you understand?"
"Are you SURE?" I asked again, for extra measure, my eyes boring into his, mafia-style
He nodded again.
"Good," I said, standing, "Then I think we're done."
I walked over to Sec and told her what had gone down. She was satisfied and within minute or two was back swinging on the monkey bars without a care in the world. I went back to where I'd been sitting and found my diaper bag on the ground, spilling open and my wallet, unfurled, laying beside it. It took me a second to remember that I'd been in the middle of rifling through my waller, to see if I had enough cash for a coffee when Sec had run over. I flew into such a rage that I literally dropped everything to take care of business, including, I guess my wallet. Thankfully, it had no money in it anyway.
A minute later Primo came over and I asked him if he'd seen what went down with the little boy and Seconda. He said he hadn't seen anything except Sec cry after she was punched.
"I'm sorry to say it Mommy." he said, "But after that, I tried to punch the boy as hard as I could. But don't worry, I missed."
"You don't have to be sorry," I said, and then, even though I know its not the park slope-y thing to say, I went on, "I'm proud of you for protecting your sis. That's my boy."
"And you know what I said, Mommy?" Primo smiled, "I yelled, 'You punched the wrong kid's sister!'"
That made me guffaw. Primo's such a gentle creature it pains him to kill a cockroach but when push comes to shove, he's still a hot blooded Italian, and loyal. Even without the oxytocin.
Nicole's a born and bred New Yorker, incurable neurotic, perfectionist, and mother superior to two firecracker kids. She lives in Brooklyn with her family and contributes essays and articles for mommy mags like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Time Out NY Kids.