Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In Which I Rant About Playground Etiquette



Hello, Sun. Nice to finally see you. Didn't think you'd make it to this part of the country...ever.

Campbell and I have finally been able to consistently enjoy time outside. Poor thing, he has my fair skin. So even though I slathered him in SPF 50 today and put a hat on him, he still got a little pink.

We went to a nearby park, which was hoppin'. There weren't really any kids his own age there, but it's nice to just go somewhere. And not spend money on it. He's finally to a point that he is walking pretty steadily/trying to run, and homeboy is obsessed with being outside.

But the more I expose him to playing in public settings with unknown children, the more tense I get. Studies show that you can tell if someone is a dick-head by age 2. (Ok, maybe I made that up.)

This isn't to be a cynic and say that kids are cruel, because for the most part, kids are adorable and sweet. But I can spot a jerk child from 1 mile away. And that kid's jerk parents usually aren't even that close. (I generalize, I know.)

I've spent my fair share of time with kids of different age groups (what with being a teacher/preschool caretaker/volunteer/swim lesson instructor/etc), so I feel like I have a handle on what is a stage of growing up (i.e. tantrums and not sharing,) vs. what is just someone being a not nice person.

Example: Girl in sandbox yelling "NO!" at Campbell when he tried to play with some sand toys next to her - developmental stage.

Boy in sandbox shoveling sand through his legs without looking where it was going (right into Campbell's face) - Aloof?

Side note: his mom was right there and told him to stop, AND I QUOTE "because you're going to get sand in your shoes." Um, really, Mom? Not because he needs to not throw sand -- period. Because it could get in someone's eyes/mouth/nose?

As Campbell was climbing out of the sandbox, he tripped and fell on his hands and knees. We're still working on the steadiness. Anyway, he started to half-cry...not sure why, maybe he came down a little too hard on his hands, maybe the pavement was hot. At any rate, he wasn't really hurt that bad.

Then, out of nowhere, this little 7- or 8-year-old DH runs up, looks at Campbell and says "Ha-ha!" As if he was saying, "Hey little baby, I saw you fall down when you were trying to walk, and I found joy in the fact that you probably got hurt and that's why you're crying."

I gave him the dirtiest close-range* look I could muster and he quickly ran away. (*It's important to keep the dirty look close-range, so that any parents that are close-by can't see the look you just gave their child. But who am I kidding? They're probably one of the ones on their cell phone the whole time their kids are playing, anyway.) I don't know why, but I wanted to trip that kid as he ran away.

I was reminded of a scene from This is 40, where Leslie Mann's character confronts her daughter's bully. Here is the best quality video I could find for now, if you haven't seen it. WARNING: Foul (but hilarious) language ahead.

Guess what? This will be me. I will do this. If anyone, ANYONE, ever tries to hurt my child and he is not able to defend himself, you will see the Mama Bear come out. I know it's not the most mature thing to do, but I'm only human. And I know some things after being a teacher AND a Mom.

When I was just a teacher, but not a Mom yet, I had this very optimistic attitude about children. Even (and especially) the bad kids. I loved bad kids as a teacher. They were challenging, endearing, and dying for a positive connection with an adult. 

I thought, every kid has a chance to be a good person. And every kid deserves a chance to do something good. 

I still believe that to an extent, and that is largely a part of what teachers do for your children. That's for another post, but go hug a teacher (or don't, many of us enjoy our personal space,) but at least give them a kind word.

But what I also know is that kids don't just do whatever some random adult tells them to do. They need to have a relationship with that adult. They need to trust that adult. So for someone to think they can politely tell some random kid what to do at a playground, uhyeahgoodluck. Best case scenario, that kid will run off without responding in any way to your request. (As they should - Stranger Danger!)

Now that I'm a Mom, I see many children in the context of their family (i.e. look at their parents.) And what I think is that sometimes parents just SUCK. Sorry to be blunt and not completely encouraging, but sometimes, if a parent has no regard for other's feelings or existence, then their kids will easily follow suit.

And that's where that DH kid came from, I'm assuming. A big old DH family.

I hope as Campbell gets older, and people stop saying how cute he is (which, let's face it, is never gonna happen, because he will always be cute), that they will comment on his character. I hope they will tell me things like he was a friend to the friendless (I Love Lucy), and that he's a good helper. And that he pet their dog really gently. (We're working on not slapping, so I thought I'd throw that in with my wish-list.)

Basically, this was just one giant rant for me to say, even if your kid is old enough to play by themselves on the playground, watch them anyway. Look at how they interact with other children, and correct behaviors that need to be corrected. Don't assume just because there aren't any parents knocking on your door calling your kid an A-hole, that your kid isn't an A-hole. It starts young, people!

On the flip-side, if your kid is in the cross-hairs of someone who's a jerk, don't feel like it's your job to correct that child or anything. Just take your kid somewhere else, away from the rude brat. Especially if it's just some Rando' at the park who you'll never see again.

Have you dealt with playground jerks and your own kids? What's your way of dealing with them? OR is YOUR KID the jerk? 


Anonymous said...

Love the rant. I wish I would have had this type of format available to me when you kids were younger. It would have been awesome! - MOM

Laura@FoodSnobSTL said...

Ok, so I can totally relate. Some punk toddler spit water all over my shoes at the park yesterday while his nanny sat and did nothing. Then, he came back and tried to do it to Elaine, and I just about lost it. I don't think that kids are born innocent, but there has to be consequences for actions. UGH.

Courtney said...

THIS is why I'm scared to be a mom, I would have wanted to punch that kid in the face. I yelled at a 6 or 7 year old when my niece was only 2 and he pushed her down on the playground. I had never been so pissed and I didn't even care if the mother saw me.

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