Last night, while waiting for a table at Islands, I witnessed a bout of sibling rivalry so extreme, it haunted my dreams and is still weighing on my psyche.
Another family was sitting across from me, also waiting for a table: a dad and his two kids, a girl who looked about 9 and a boy around 6 or 7. Everything seemed normal at first, the dad was on his phone talking to what was obviously a business contact, and the boy and girl just sat in their chairs, the boy occasionally kicking his sister's feet out of boredom.
Then the boy walked up to the dispenser of free hand sanitizer and poured a large amount onto his hands. He started rubbing the sanitizer in while walking back to his sister. Then he started gleefully flinging his hands in his sister's face.
It took her a few seconds to realize that the liquid on her face was not water, but actually rubbing alcohol, and she looked moderately annoyed...until some splashed into her eyes. She winced and pressed her fingers into her eyelids to relieve the pain. Then her brother, still wearing a smile, grabbed her hands to prevent her from rubbing her eyes. The sister then pulled her hands away and pressed her thumbs into her brother's jugular, so hard that he gagged and threw up in his mouth. That's when he motioned to his dad, pointing urgently at his mouth. The dad, to his slight credit, definitely looked concerned and got right up to take him to the restroom.
This whole incident took about 10 seconds, not enough time for me to butt in and say something (although even if I did have the opportunity, I think it would be inappropriately nosy of me to intervene). But it really got me thinking about all the things our kids experience, all the small and large cruelties they inflict on each other, that we parents have no idea about. Specifically, I remember one day last year when Isaac pulled his eyes back and asked me what that meant. I feigned ignorance at first, to see if he'd tell me more of the context in which he saw that. He said some kids at school, not friends of his, were doing that to each other. I told him it might be that they were teasing someone, so to let me know if it ever happened again, especially if someone did that at him. I didn't want to bring in the racial element then, especially when the context was unclear, and he hasn't mentioned it since, but I definitely am on the lookout whenever I'm on campus for other signs of racial insensitivity.
The not-knowing really sucks, and it's not always the parents' fault because most incidents happen at school or what-have-you, but as open as I urge my own kids to be with me, they only rarely tell me any details about what goes on in the playground, or any specific things people have said to them. In the past, I had hoped it was because those things didn't affect them and they had since forgotten, but now I really wonder. What if Isaac and Emi really are getting hurt and I am just not picking up on the cues?
That would make me absolutely no better than the father of those two kids.