# When The Little Shit is Yours

#### Sarah Tuttle-Singer

Sarah lives with her 2 kids in a small village in Israel with a bombass view of rolling fields. She is a Contributing Editor at Kveller, the New Media Editor at Times of Israel, and her essay "We need to quit telling lies on Facebook" will appear  in The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @expatbarbie.

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By now, my ears are finely tuned to know my kids’ cries anywhere. I am a living, breathing, once-lactating richter scale who can track the velocity of a low moan or a high whine anywhere, anytime. I failed algebra 2, and didn’t even bother taking calculus, but believe you me, as a mother, I know how to plug the silences between the screams into that mathematical algorithm that differentiates between “dude, cut the drama,” and “holy shit, what’s the number for 911?”

And oooh how smug I am as I sit on the stone bench with my ice coffee and think to myself with absolute certainty “well, thank God that wasn’t my kid.”

But it kind of was.

“Mommyyyyyy!” a scream tears through the playground, louder than the usual clamor of kids shrieking as they fly through the air on plastic swings or whoosh down the big red slide, and loud enough to make all of the mommies raise our heads in neurotic unison like zebras at a watering hole.

But even though I look up, I’m not really that freaked out. By now, my ears are finely tuned to know my kids’ cries anywhere.  I am a living, breathing, once-lactating richter scale who can track the velocity of a low moan or a high whine anywhere, anytime. I failed algebra 2, and didn’t even bother taking calculus, but believe you me, as a mother, I know how to plug the silences between the screams into that mathematical algorithm that differentiates between “dude, cut the drama,” and “holy shit, what’s the number for 911?”

And oooh how smug I am as I sit on the stone bench with my ice coffee and think to myself with absolute certainty “well, thank God that wasn’t my kid.”

But it kind of was.

Because while it isn’t my beamish boy pink cheeked and howling at the bottom of the big red slide, he is the reason this other kid is crying.

“No! I’m not giving it back!” my son is shouting, as he clutches a Thomas the Tank Engine that sooooooo does not belong to him.

“But it’s mine!” the other boy sobs as he reaches for (his!) Thomas.

“No. I want it!”

And guess what I want? I want to throttle my son.

Even in the flurry of it all, I realize that this is one of those (gag) “teachable moments” where I should walk slowly and purposefully to my son, get down on the ground so that we’re eye-to-eye, and speak in reassuring and non-judgemental tones.

Where an ideal mother would say “Sweet Boy, it looks like you’re feeling a lot of anger right now.”

Where an ideal mother would say “Sweet Boy, Thomas doesn’t belong to you, and this little boy would like him back.”

Where an ideal mother would say “Sweet Boy, what can we do instead of screaming?”

Yeah, well, this mother yells in a voice big and deep, a yell that starts somewhere in the gut and  rattles the cords in her throat, a yell that almost tears her tonsils off.

“Dude, that is not your train. Give it back. Now!”

Guess what happens. My son starts screaming, too.

It’s been a very long day.  Hell, it’s been a very  long 3 ½ years, and I am beyond horrified that my sweet boy — the sweet boy who likes me to sing Elton John’s Tiny Dancer to him when we walk to preschool, the sweet boy who tears his sandwich in half and offers his friend a bite, the sweet boy who sleeps snuggling his Princess Tiana doll — is the reason why this kid is crying.

Meanwhile, the other kids mother is now at the slide, her arms wrapped around her weeping child, while she is skewering my son with her stare.   Can’t say I  blame her.  I have been there: Last year, I wanted to cut the little girl who took my son’s Princess Tiana doll and made him cry. When I watched my child’s face crumple, and his eyes shine like river rocks, my claws came out with a growl from a low and primal place beyond the gut, and  I wanted to grab that doll out of the girl’s grubby little hands and hit her upside the head with it  – thwack thwack thwack — before restoring it to its rightful place in my son’s arms.

And I’ll tell you something kind of ugly and a little bit scary: I’d rather get all mother lion on someone’s ass than be the mother whose child caused another’s pain.

Because what do I do? I can have a serious tug-of-war with my (freakishly strong) 3 ½ year old and scream “give me the goddamn train right now this minute” but then I’m that mother in the park screaming at her kid, and everyone is thinking to themselves “Homegirl can’t even control herself. No wonder her kid is acting like such a little shit.” Or after wrestling Thomas from my son’s death grip, I can make him say he’s sorry to the other kid, but let’s be real: The whole “I’m sorry” thing is just an act for the other mom, because the only thing my son will be “sorry” about is the fact that he can’t keep the goddamn train.

Or, I can remind my son of that day last year when someone made him feel sad: “Do you remember how sad you were when someone took your Princess Tiana doll? Do you see how this child is crying now?” and pray that these words will nurture that kernel of empathy that I know is buried beneath the temper and the tears.

So there it is. The “teachable moment” shining through the dregs of a very long day — not just for my son, but for me.

Because karma is a 3 ½ year old with a Thomas the Tank Engine, and now that I know my son is fully capable of acting like a little shit on the playground, and now that I  know how rotten it feels to see it happen, I hope I’ll be easier on the next little shit that inevitably hurts my son’s feelings.

### Around the web

1 Vanessa October 3, 2013 at 7:00 am

There isn’t a kid out there who hasn’t been mean on the playground on some occasion or other. I know my own two were excellent at teaching me humility.

2 Gina October 3, 2013 at 7:24 am

Yes, yes and yes. ALL kids are shits, sometimes. OK, most times. ;)

3 Emily October 3, 2013 at 8:11 am

4 Dawn McNary October 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm

You are at master at bringing back those not so 'fond' memories of raising little ones and mommy playgroups gone bad! Haha. Thank you for sharing your ability to write and evoke alll those feelings….but perhaps..you may need a warning..so next time I am not mid sip of my coffee as you describe your possible out of control home girl moment…I almost lost it! Stilllll laughing!

5 Kim October 3, 2013 at 8:19 am

I couldn’t possibly love this more!

6 Jenna October 3, 2013 at 8:20 am

A-FREAKING-men!!! My kid has been the biggest asshole lately.

7 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm

THANK YOU :))) wow, what a wonderful compliment. You made my day.

8 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm

9 Erika Londono October 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

well said girl, well said!

10 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 12:31 pm

THANKS :)

11 Debbie October 3, 2013 at 8:32 am

I think this is when I used to suddenly remember we had to “leave early!”

12 Dawn Miller October 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm

This is SOOOO where we are right now!!! As always, it's good to know I don't have the only little shit on the playground.

13 Kristin October 3, 2013 at 8:53 am

I’m an apologist no matter which role my kid is playing. Then we get home and have the more detailed conversation. Life isn’t fair, kid.

Now that they’re a little older, I usually respond, “Does it need a doctor? The hospital? No? Work it out.”

14 Brian John Thomas October 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Look out Scary Mommies there’s a new Sarah mommy in town!

And my kids can be complete little sh*ts too. The shoulder barge off the bimba (Hebrew for ride along toy) is a particular favourite especially when the toy is owned by the other kid.

15 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 1:06 pm

:)))

16 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 1:07 pm

:) Little Shits of the Playground UNITE (Well, God forbid.)

17 Jill Smokler October 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Sarah Tuttle-Singer OMG, can you even imagine? <Shudder>

18 Varda October 3, 2013 at 9:43 am

Yeah, it sure does suck when your kid is it. I’d rather eat a pint of ice cream than deal with that. Great blog piece, Sarah. As usual.

19 Elise Ronan October 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm

It would be nice if all parents actually accepted the fact that their little darlings could go all "little shit" on someone else's child. Sadly in my own experience they do not. The "not my child syndrome" is alive and well in my world and it is the biggest hindrance to dealing with the nastiness that comes with adolescence and beyond.

20 Krystal October 3, 2013 at 9:57 am

I very much enjoyed this. I’d like to think that I would be a calm and collected mommy when my child is being a bully, but I could totally see myself saying something along the lines of “What the hell is wrong with you?! Quit acting like an asshole!” LOL

21 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Jill Smokler apocalypse now.

22 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm

yes – and not to get too dramatic about it, but it helps feed into rape culture, too.

23 Jasbir @jasbeeray October 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

“thwack thwack thwack!” that’s is so true. I too usually feel like that when another child is causing the pain but nothing is quite as bad when its yout child who is the trouble maker.

24 Leesa Arr October 3, 2013 at 10:23 am

“loud enough to make all of the mommies raise our heads in neurotic unison like zebras at a watering hole”…hahaha

Well written…laughed out loud!

25 Jordan Colberg October 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm

YES! Spoken like a real mother. Thank you for your honesty and humour. In a world where parenting is so heavily scrutinized, it's refreshing.

26 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm

THANKS :D

27 HD October 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

I absolutely LOVE this! I’m on both sides of the fence every day as the mom of twins. Someone’s always stirring the pot! I try to remember to do the ‘ideal’ mom approach but I swear in the heat of the moment all the stuff I learned in the Love and Logic seminars and books goes right out of my head and I do the low voiced/crazy person thing.

28 Heidi Hagel October 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

This is AWESOME!!!

29 Mary Ruth Andrews October 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I love that you remembered what happened to him previously, and used that…

30 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 3:54 pm

thanks :)

31 Julie Gray October 3, 2013 at 3:55 pm

REALLY enjoyed this, Sarah. I've been there. It's such an odd feeling when your child acts contrary to your values and other mothers STARE at you as if you've purposely raised a demon. It's kids! It happens!

32 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Don't you just want to stare back sometimes? Or loudly proclaim "WHOSE CHILD IS THIS?"

33 Denise October 3, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Omg the zebra thing is so stinking hilarious and true. My sons so sensitive I was go all beat the kid that hurt him too, but he is also the little snot the pushes everyone because he has to be first to do everything rrrr that makes me wanna ggggrrrr so yeah I feel ya.

34 Denise October 3, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Totally done the end of long day low growl thing too. Great post!

35 Devora Mason October 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Sarah, I love the way you battled your inner-self of wanting to be the educator but also just wanting to yell your guts out. I can so relate.
But I also think it was so important the perspective you shared not just about understanding that kids can just as easily be the victims as well as the aggressors but also as parents we can find ourselves in both positions, of being the protectors as easily as we can be the educators. It's important that we don't judge other parents when their kid acts out. We need to support and encourage and when all else fails, well, I guess we can yell your guts out then. (: Right on!

36 Amber October 3, 2013 at 3:37 pm

YES. My daughter can SO be a Little Shit. She’s incredibly bossy at times and I have to tell her to tone it down and remind her that she’s not Naomi Campbell so CHILL OUT.

37 Herb Glatter October 3, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Sarah there's a book deal in the near future

38 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 4, 2013 at 10:38 am

from your mouth to HaShem's ears ;)

39 Cecilia October 4, 2013 at 11:30 am

OMG, this is exactly what I needed today. Because my middleschooler was the instigator of a scuffle after school last week. He’s small for his age so has this weird Napoleon Complex, so this is not the first time he’s made trouble, and I swear to god, I think school must think I’m the worst, most permissive mother ever. And we live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else, so when he makes trouble, it gets around, and I feel VERY isolated. And I SOOOOO am not an “anything-goes” mother. I spend a tremendous amount of time setting appropriate rules, and enforcing them. It is so exhausting. Seriously, this week I was so furious, I told him that I would rather he got the shit kicked out of him by another kid than to ever lay a finger on anyone else again, even if it seems like you’re “wrestling” because “wrestling” ALWAYS seems to turn bad.

I wish that he would be the nice boy at school that he is at home. Helpful, sweet, funny, loving. Just behave! Just be polite! Be the boy THAT I KNOW!

Thank you for reminding me how much I love my Little Shit, even when he is being exactly that!

40 Kat October 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Thankfully, I’ve never caught my kids in the act of being the “little shits” on the playground and have only had one report of unsavourly behaviour but I definitely would have been the one saying “give the damn thing back, it’s not yours!”. The teaching moment talk would happen afterward when we’ve both calmed down.

41 Twin Mama October 5, 2013 at 4:15 am

Ah, and this after I pick up my boys at daycare and find out that one of them hit another kid in the head with a toy and made him bleed. All I wanted to do is hit him in the head with the toy and see how he liked it. Instead, I said,"We don't hit our friends." Useless.

42 Sena Lee October 5, 2013 at 8:52 am

43 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm

44 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Thanks :D

45 Ariella Drake Jr. October 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm

My son is an angel. A perfect 3 year old angel. I have never ever been in this situation with him. He always behaves perfectly. And then I wake up. Thanks for letting us all know we are not alone!

46 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I threw up a little bit in my mouth until I read your second to last sentence :) !!!

47 Grace | Yummy Baby Gifts October 12, 2013 at 11:43 am

This was great! Too funny! I know my girls will embarrass me on the playground one day too!

48 Joanna Becker October 12, 2013 at 5:27 pm

This really resonated with me, because "Seriously, dude?" is absolutely my response to a meltdown. Which happened today. Twice. Sometimes, my kid is the asshole.

49 Peggy Kolodziej October 12, 2013 at 6:52 pm

OMGosh, I am laughing SO hard, I'm just thankful I put my coffee down in the beginning!! Finally someone puts it together with humor and truth, without making the reader feel inadequate or guilty. Let's all fess up because we KNOW we've been there done that! You managed to keep the positive experience without the condemnation. Excellent read!

50 Zack Shubb October 13, 2013 at 12:18 am

Thank you for the very honest and accurate article. I think all parents think 2 things when we hear the first cries of a child: 1) I sure hope that isn't my child and 2) I sure hope my child isn't the reason for the crying.

One comment to add, any person who would judge by thinking "“Homegirl can’t even control herself. No wonder her kid is acting like such a little shit.” is either childless or a horrible b*tch themselves.

51 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

:D we sound like kindred spirits.

52 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

THANKS :D what a great compliment.

53 Sarah Tuttle-Singer October 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Amen. :D

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