There are definite stages to parenting -- not unlike child development stages. Today, I did a 10k run at the track at the Savoy Recreation Center. I looked down at all the parents with young children and I remembered when X-man was little I used to take him to the Tag-a-long gym on Thursdays, too. He was free when he was under 1, so we'd go and he'd crawl across the giant gym floor and pull up on the grocery cart to see if he could stuff whatever toys another toddler had put in it into his mouth.
Then a 2 year old would come back to the car, push him down and run away with it. X-man would cry. The mother of the 2 year old would apologize and try to stress sharing and taking turns. And I'd think, "I can't believe that kid just pushed my baby down."
Then my kid became a toddler -- with a biting problem -- who was bigger than most of the other toddlers in his social group. He was as self centered as they came, but he was adventurous. I took him to Sholem Pool where, at 16 months he loved going up and down the water slide. Again, he was moving too slow on the slippery stairs and some 3 year old pushed him out of the way. I caught him before he crashed too hard into anything, but I thought, "I bet that kid has creepy older brothers and sisters who pushed him down like that."
Then my kid turned 3. A mood swinging, independent, loud tantrum, protesting 3. We went to the mall to play. He saw an 18-month-old boy vacating one of the stupid cars that you put quarters in and pushed the kid out of the way and pretty much on his head in order to get his turn in the car faster. The other mother rushed to her toddler. I sighed. Hauled X-man out of the car, explained what he just did hurt the other boy. X-man would look in my eyes. He wouldn't look at the child as he apologized. It was clear he could have given a crap. I looked at the parent with my eyes full of "I'm sorry" and apologized. She picked up her kid, put his coat on and left. My apology meant nothing. She was thinking, "I can't believe that jerk of a kid just pushed my baby down."
Now that X-man is almost 4. He's much more tolerant of babies. He seems to understand that they don't really talk and that they fall over a lot. He likes to give them kisses and cover them with blankets. But he gets frustrated by his fellow 3 and 4 year olds. He still is in that self-centered, self-serving developmental area. So, when he's running around a playground with older boys who don't understand all of his still developing language, but are into playing superheroes and don't mind having another teammate I watch some of the boys assign my child the villain role. This makes him upset. He doesn't want to be the bad guy. Some of the older boys understand this and they're completely cool with being a Sith Lord. :-)
But late at night when my boy is mumbling as he tries to fall asleep. He says things like, "The big kids laugh at me. The big kids are really loud."
"How does that make you feel?" I ask.
Social acceptance -- our next big developmental challenge as he moves from a baby, to a toddler, to a pre-schooler to a real "big" boy, and I'm developing as a parent right along with him.