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When My 4-Year-Old Punched Another Kid, I Became That Mom

So. My kid punched a kid. Let’s just start there.

It happened at preschool, on an unassuming, every-day kind of a day. But at pick-up, the teacher slid next to me on the sectioned colored rug and delicately started in, “…so, your son was a little off today…”

What’s that?

She then unveiled my son’s litany of attacks that day: a shove, a push to the cement and the whopper finale of three sucker punches to the ribs of his classmate.

Oh. Oh, God…

When she asked him why he did it, he stared blankly into space and said, “For no reason”.

Quick backstory on my kid: He’s a hyper dude — but not a violent one. His body goes before his brain, and sometimes it’s a struggle to calm him or focus him or get him to put on his shoes (putonyourshoeswillyoujustputonyourshoesyourshoesrightthere…), but he is usually a keep-his-hands-to-himself kind of a kid.

Until today.

The teacher excused herself to talk to the parents picking up their wounded children. “So, Jasper was pushed…Markus was shoved…Michael was punched today…”

And, just like that, sitting on the green square in room three, I was that mom.

The mom of the Trouble Kid.

I strapped my four-year-old in his car seat, and I shot off questions:

Why did you punch your friend?

I don’t know.

Why didn’t you stop?

I don’t know.

Did you know you hurt him?


You hurt him very badly.

He was red. I hurt his bones.

Why would you want to hurt him?!

I don’t know. I just did it.

Great. Great great great great great.

Later, my husband came home and I ordered him to take our son for a walk. I wanted them to talk man-to-man — find out WHY he did these terrible acts. My husband obliged but then returned 20 minutes later with nothing. “What do you want me to do? He’s four. We talked about owls and skateboards.”

Ugh. Men.

At dinner I decided to take a different tactic: talking it out (that’ll work). I went on a wild diatribe of how we have to take care of one another and how we have one life and we better do it right. We don’t hurt people, we have to take care of our family and our neighbors and our community…I mean, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING??!!

I took away super hero books and anything that said “pow.” I took away shows and costumes and mittens that had tiny bumps on them. I wasn’t taking any chances.

My son just looked down at the table. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t elaborate. He just sat there. Unattached and unreachable. Miles away and unrecognizable.

Who was this kid?

Later that night, I was out with girlfriends. I told the story of my boy’s punches and everyone gasped. “What will you do?” they wondered.

I shook my head and popped olives in my mouth.

I don’t know! I can’t deal with it. I can’t deal with anything right now. I mean, what’s it gonna be next, right? Every day I feel like punching someone in the chest…!

And there it was.

It was me. He did it because of me.

I took away super hero books and anything that said “pow.” I took away shows and costumes and mittens that had tiny bumps on them. I wasn’t taking any chances.

In the car home, I reviewed my behavior this month. I’d been so careful about talking in code to my husband about current events. I typed quick venting texts to friends, but I never made calls. I’d steal moments to surf Internet pop-ups while my kid zoned in front of Super Why, but it was all silent and in secret. Or so I’d thought.

What I realized was that my kid doesn’t need to read the headlines cause he is reading the lines on my forehead. He doesn’t need to spell words to decode that what I am saying makes me sad and angry and uptight. And it doesn’t take a sleuth to calculate that “mommy’s little helper” glass of wine gets poured earlier and earlier every night…

Mommy.com is always live, and he is plugged in.

No wonder he hit that kid.

I got home, put on my PJs and stared at the ceiling. It was all my fault. (Again.)

But instead of opening the frequently visited Pandora’s box of mommy shame, I decided to look at it from a different angle: I had been heard. And understood — on an energy level, a gut level, a blood level.

And in that moment, I felt so close to my little boy.

My son, who I had thought was so distant, was inside my bones. He had felt me, and, like a balloon tight with too much air, he let loose.

Like I had wanted to.

So now, we punch couches. And dart pillows across the room. And stomp our feet and growl at the moon. But we do it together. Cause we’re in this together. And we are forever deeply, deeply connected.

(Photo: Stocksy)

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