Zeke was running around at the park, doing his thing. Lately I've been letting him go off on his own and spending most of my time running after Ben, who physically must fall on his face ten times each hour.
There were other kids at the park, but the only kids his age were these three, adorable blonde girls. Zeke found them fast and proceeded to chase them without asking their names. The girls were happy to run away. They played for awhile on the slides and then came into my zone of influence. I glanced up from Ben and saw Zeke punch the air - very fast - right in front of a girl's face. He made this plosive noise right as he did it - like a burst of air with lots of spit.
"Zeke!" I yelled, even though he was five feet away. "Get over here now," I said, pointing.
He came, smiling.
"I saw you just pretend to hit that girl. That is not a nice thing to do. She won't be friends with you if you pretend to hit her. We don't hit. Say, 'No hitting and no pretending to hit -'"
"-No hitting and no pretending to hit!" he said instantly, still smiling.
"Ten jumping jacks."
"One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten!" he jumped with delight.
"Good job, I love you. Now, go play."
And off he went, chasing the girls again.
A while later I heard once of the girls say, "No! Don't hit me!"
I looked over and saw Zeke standing in front of a sad-faced blonde girl, spitttle still on his smiling lips.
I nabbed him, told him the rule, made him apologize, and he did 10 more jumping jacks.
The third time I was pretty much stuck inside the whale-tail staircase, trying to help Ben up the impossibly steep stairs. A nanny was in the sand just a few feet behind me and said, "Tell me who hit you."
The third blonde girl was running over to her, crying.
"Que pasa, mama?"
"Quien? Quien te mmmm golpeado?"
I was already searching the playground for him.
"Did that little boy hit you?" the nanny said loudly, switching to English.
I jumped in. "Was it that little boy in the red shirt?"
The nanny nodded.
I caught him, scolded him, made him apologize (the girl said, "That's okay, we can be friends") and he did 10 more jumping jacks. I told him if he did it again, we would have to go home.
Then I watched. Ben somehow didn't die (although I did lose him briefly) and I watched Zeke run around, chase the girls and jump off things. He was very happy. I saw him jump down from the top of a slide and then pretend-hit the slide with his plosive noise. He saw all three girls running up a ramp a short distance away and quickly pretend-hit each of them in succession. Something clicked in my head.
He wasn't pretending to hit. He was shooting. He was pretending to shoot the girls.
I dragged him home, of course, because I had to follow through, although he knew (and I now knew) that he hadn't ever broken the rule of "No pretending to hit". On the car ride home he confirmed that he was shooting the girls, not hitting them. He said 'gun' 'shoot' 'bang' and made that plosive noise many, many times. I have no clue what to do.
I liked it better when I thought he was just pretending to hit.