Tuesday, September 22, 2009

playground politics

When at the playground with other children, and said children's parents and/or caregivers, there are certain rules that need to be followed. Make sure your kid plays nice and doesn't break their neck.  Everyone with me so far?   Yes?   It all seems pretty common-sensical to me.  But apparently not so.

Let's work with an example:

You notice that your child is being pushed around by some other kid at the playground.  Their parent/caregiver is oblivious, chatting with their mommy/daddy/nanny pals. 

There are generally 3 options here.  Do you A) talk to the caregiver and let them handle it (or not), B) intervene on your own (no way you want to be the one to tell them their kid is a bully), or C) let them figure it out themselves. Kids will be kids, as they say.   

If you answered A or B, we could be probably be playground buddies.  I generally work with some combination thereof.  If a parent's around and I know who they are, I'll wait a second for them to do something, and if not  - I'll make meaningful eye contact with them (I've worked on what I think is the perfect "what-the-F-is-wrong-with-you-your-child-is-being-a-big-stinky-bully-and-here-you-are-watching-like-it's-payperview" look.  It comes with an eyebrow raise, which as my wife can tell you, is kinda intimidating) and intervene myself.   If they aren't around, I try jump in and send the kids in opposite directions, so noone gets squashed or otherwise traumatized.   

If you answered C - chances are your child is a bully, or at least veering towards the bully end of the spectrum.  There.  I said it.  I'm calling you out.  That ain't right.  This isn't survival of the fittest.  It's not an episode of Survivor.  It's children on a playground.  They shouldn't have to be watching their backs.

Let me be clear about this.  I'm not saying we need to grow eyes in the back of our heads, or intervene for every little thing that happens in child world.  But there are certain things I consider to be PIO's, or playground-intervenable-offences, whether done by my kid or someone else's.  You know - pushing, shoving, hitting, biting, obvious verbal abuse and the like.   

I ran into one of those "C" people at the park today with Oliver.  We were playing in the sandbox with toys that we brought from home.  I'm all about sharing toys, especially when you take them with you to the park.  But this little dude, at the park with his grampa, keeps running into the sandbox and grabbing the shovel right out of Oliver's hand.  I waited for grampa to do something, but he just laughs and says "he sure loves to shovel."  No shit.  So I give him "the look" and take charge.  I take the shovel gently from the toddler monster and hand it back to my kid, (who's just standing there looking really forlorn) saying "right now, it's Oliver's turn for the shovel, little dude."  But little monster dude does it again.  And again.  I try to distract little monster dude with trucks and cars that Ollie has brought.  Nothing doing.  So the next time little grabber gets all grabby, I encourage Oliver to let little monster dude play with the shovel, hoping this will appease the wee snot.  Oliver (rather graciously, I think) okays this and waits for his turn again.  But again, the little monster dude starts grabbing the shovel away from my kid.  Grampa laughs again and says "he sure is persistent."  No shit.  So I actually pick the little bugger up and move him, with some sand toys, to the other side of the sandbox.  Still, grampa does nothing, and just watches as little monster dude comes back and takes the shovel.  Oliver, at this point is starting to lose his cool.  I can't really say that I blame him.  (I'm about ready to pop gramps in the kisser, myself).  Finally I say, loudly, to the little dude, but loud enough so gramps can hear- "you know what little dude, grabbing someone's toy like that isn't very nice."  Gramps shoots me a dirty look, but takes his "sweet" little puddin' pop, kicking and screaming, to the other side of the playground and then, eventually, home.  

(As a bit of an aside, Gramps there is turning out to be my playground nemesis.  Last time we were at the park, he let little monster dude ride Oliver's tricycle around without so much as asking permission.  Twice. Without a helmet, to boot.  The apple clearly doesn't fall very far from that big rude old tree.  Just saying.)

But seriously - if you know that your kid, your little prince or princess, is a grabber or a hitter or a biter or what have you, ya'll need to spend less time chatting with your mommy/daddy/nanny friends and more time supervising your tot until they can behave like wee human beings around other kids. 

My kid is far from being a saint.  I am even farther away from sainthood.  I've been known to let my mom radar tune out from time to time.  So I sincerely hope that if I'm not paying enough attention catch see him terrorizing some other poor tot, the adult who does see will step in and say something, either to me or to him.   It takes a village, as they say.

Now you might be reading this and thinking something like - "that kid needs to toughen up and learn to deal with things for himself."   Or "When he gets out into the real world, he's going to need to know how to take care of himself."  Or something of the like.  But here's the thing.  All of us folks who now inhabit "the real world," where pushing and shoving and general rudeness abounds; we all started out in the playground. 


  1. can you come and hang out with me in Vancouver? I think we'd get on IRL famously..... and my Lucy and yours could be buddies ;o) GREAT blog. Couldn't agree more!

  2. i hear ya! boo to the c's on the playground.