May 3, 2011

Playground etiquette?

We live in the city. A very big city. The third largest city in the US. In this city we live in an apartment. A big, roomy, awesome apartment we absolutely love... but an apartment nonetheless. It's the top floor unit of a 2 flat with a finished basement turned into a 3rd apartment.

That said, the outside of the apartment is pretty nonexistent... Iron fences define many houses and apartment buildings, keeping weirdos away and little ones in as they try to find some freedom; concrete walkways with crumbling rocks from years of abuse mark the way to the door and street and alley; a lonely dandelion next to the little greenery square belonging to the building; vehicles, newspapers, paper cups littering the street.

The Paper Mama

Such is (life) Spring in the big city.

It's because of our city living that Lovie and I (and sometimes dad when he can) frequent the park and playground as often as we can... and because she's older and more active than she was a year ago, I can't help but wonder if I'm handling things right.

I try not to hover. I try to let her do her own thing and explore her world. I try to let her discover ways to get up the apparatus and down... but I watch closely so she does this in a safe manner. And my girl... she, like many littles, has no fear so instead of letting her climb up the slide on the slide, we're working on climbing up the stairs first. Instead of walking in front of someone swinging, we're working on walking to an empty swing.

It's all a work in progress as we perfect our Playground Etiquette- if there is such a thing.

But are we the only ones? Or once that etiquette is perfected do the parents just go sit on the bench and completely zone out until absolutely necessary?

Friday when we stopped at the park, it was sunny and in the 60s so it was packed with the kiddos small and large.  At one point Lovie was on top of one of the playgrounds that has a tunnel going to another area on one side and a tunnel slide going in another direction. Those were your two options along with a third- a rail staircase.

Lovie was on the platform on her hands and knees. And she was trapped. One big kid was laying on TOP of the tunnel slide screaming down into the slide. Another big kid was perfecting his monkey swing from the rail that was over the slide and tunnel. A third big kid (by big, I mean about 10-12) climbed up the rail staircase and stood on the platform.

I tried to get Lovie out of the madness of the screaming kids, but she just looked up at the crazies. I don't know how they didn't crush her to be honest. I kept reaching in for her but she was out of my grasp and couldn't hear me calling for her over the big kids screaming.

After what seemed like half an hour (but was probably more like 2 minutes), I finally let out a very loud and stern, "OKAY THIS IS GETTING A LITTLE OUT OF HAND."

Finally, as I continue to reach for Lovie, I hear an adult female voice calling out, "You guys need to get down now. That's enough. There are babies in there you have to look out for."

And with that, the big kids vanished.

While it all worked out fine and nobody was hurt, I'm afraid of how I would've reacted had one of them stepped on Lovie's fingers or body or head. Should I have climbed up onto the platform and towered over the big kids as I scooped Lovie away? Should I have just let Lovie fend for herself?

Then yesterday on our way home, we stopped again at the same park (it's a nice park in a nice area on our way home and very conveniently located with off street parking). Only this time there weren't many kids- maybe a total of five. And everything was peachy until one of the kids started being a bully to Lovie and it was on the same piece of playground!

With my assistance, Lovie climbed up the rail staircase to the platform of the two tunnels except that when she got to the top, just before the platform, this white haired boy with his mouth ajar and very sad eyes just stared at her and me. I laughed trying to make it seem like I thought he was being funny when I really knew that he was being a bully and he was doing so for attention (those eyes- I won't forget them... they were sad and almost empty, somehow, at such a young age of 3, I'm guessing). He just sat on the platform with both arms on either side of the platform as to block someone from entering.

Lovie looked at him and he glared back. She made a move to go under one arm and in my head I was applauding her effort but the boy dropped his arm so, again, she was blocked. She looked at him and whined.

"Hold on, honey" I said, not really knowing what to do or say. "You have to wait your turn," I said, hoping the boy would just fucking move already. I mean why does he have to pick on my kid? Why not pick on someone his own size? Oh that's right... because he's a bully. At age fucking 3.

Finally the kid moved and just like that he was gone. Lovie got up into the platform and her face lit up as she was about to slide down the tunnel slide. I ran to the end of it to coax her down and the bully was sitting in it.

Fuck me, kid.

I didn't want Lovie sliding down in to him as he started climbing up the slide via the slide cuz I figured he'd be an asshat to her... so I ran back to the platform and grabbed her jacket to prevent her from sliding.

"Hold on," I said again. "You have to make sure nobody else is in it before you slide." I'm totally OK with telling her this as she does need to learn that she may have to take turns, but at 16 months I know she doesn't get it.

The bully made his way back up to the entrance of the tunnel slide and now he and Lovie were face to face again. He towered over her and, with his mouth open, his sad empty eyes just glared at her again as his hands reached out to either side of the tunnel slide blocking her from entering.

Lovie started let out a little WTF whimper.

"Hang on, darling," I said, trying my best not to get pissed, trying my best to sound like I thought what was happening was funny.  "You have to wait until it's empty."

The bully just glared at her, mouth ajar, as she looked back at him, mouth closed, before she inched toward him and the slide trying to get around him.  He moved his arm down and off the slide and while his hands didn't touch her, he nudged her with his shoulder.

How I didn't flip out, I don't know but I know that I can't always be there to protect her and the fact was that she was OK. And really what could I do to get this fucking kid to stop?

With the nudge, Lovie moved back and whined more and more.

"Hang on," I said again grabbing her jacket.

The bully took his place back on the entrance to the slide just glaring at Lovie and she finally had enough and started to cry.

Fucking jerk of a kid.

Finally the crying brought about the bully's mother who was standing 10 feet behind me talking to her fucking mom friends and she said, "Ian, buddy, what's going on?"

I was biting my tongue at her fucking sickening sweet tone. Bitch you're standing right there and you're gonna tell me you don't know what the fuck this shit of a kid is doing?

"Did you make the girl cry?"

No answer, just empty sad eyes and mouth open stare.

"Are you blocking the slide? I know your brothers do that to you, but you need to go down so the girl can go."

Lovie just looked at the mom studying her and I swear Lovie's face read what my head was thinking, "What the fuck."

The bully kid, mouth still fucking open, looks at his mother with the same empty sad eyes, looks at Lovie, turns around and vanishes in the tube slide. Lovie quickly moves to the slide's entrance and I run to the bottom and, with a huge smile on her face, Lovie slides down face first.

It was the last time she slid down the slide yesterday. She had no more interest in getting on that piece of playground equipment. I'm sure it was just a coincidence and I'm sure she'll experience worse, which is why I'm posting this.

What should I have done? What should I do in the future, if anything? Do you have certain guidelines or something you follow? Or is it all just trusting your gut and crossing bridges when you get to them?

Also, was that mom on a playdate? Is that how those go? You meet up with other mom(s) and the kids run wild while the moms shoot the shit, ignoring the kids?

If so, it's one more reason I'm glad not to feel the need to do Playdates with anyone other than just my Lovie. Blech.


  1. I have a friend who is the MASTER at handling situations like this--she somehow always manages to be firm and stop the behavior, but avoid drama from other moms who are all like, "Don't tell my kid what to do!"

    Last time, it was a group of 8 year olds who would yell, "Fuck you!" to our toddlers if they did something the big kids didn't like. She said something like, "Boys, the little kids look up to older kids like you to see how to behavetS. I know you're smart enough to be able to choose better words to speak to these little kids who look up to you."

    It was so simple, and so effective.

  2. I would have asked the kid to move. And if he didn't, I would have found his mom and nicely told her he was blocking the slide from my child. I have no problems with this, and I applaud you for remaining so calm.

  3. Ugh. I HATE when parents just let their kids run wild on the playground! I don't necessarily stay on top of my kids, but I always know what they're doing. I don't want my kids to get hurt, picked on, etc., nor do I want them doing anything to another kid. Let's face it, even the nicest littles can be little devils every now and then. If my child is in a dangerous situation, I have no problem saying something to the offending brat. If a kid is just being a jerk, I usually won't say anything to him because I am afraid the parent will go apeshit on me. LOL

    I hope you can have a fun, peaceful playdate at the park sometime. Don't let crappy parents ruin it for you.

  4. I'm with LOG. I'd have asked the kid to move. How you stayed calm is beyond me.

  5. Playgrounds with little kids can be difficult. Our city recently opened an indoor playground and I took my kids there shortly after it opened. My little guy was in the Ergo but my 2 year old was climbing it. Then some older (like 8-10 years old) kids came by, pushing past her and nearly knocked her off. I told them to watch it as there were little kids and one of the girls turned to me and said, "You can't tell me what to do. You're not my mother." Then, calm and sensible me said, "But I am her mother and, trust me, you DON'T want to mess with me!" Other than dirty looks from this girl for the rest of the time we were there, she pretty much left us alone. I can't say I'm proud of myself--but I'm not NOT proud either. For the love of all things holy, HER mother should have been the one yelling at her!

  6. First, I applaud you for remaining so calm!

    When something like this happens with me and my kids I try my best to stay calm to start off. But then when the kid turns into a complete little shit, I do open my mouth and ask him to move. It's one of those things that you just deal with as it happens (at least for me it is).

  7. I have to tell you that I think you handled this very well. A little differently than I would have, but I have very little patience for kids like that.

    My daughter is 2 and when we go to the playground, there are 4 sections. 1 is a section for the little kids, with a bridge, some ladders, etc. One is for the swings and 2 are for the bigger kids. Well, for some unknown reason, the big kids like to attack the little kids section. They're always rough housing and running across the bridge when there are little 1 and 2 year olds trying to keep their balance on it. I do say something. If it happens once, I'll tell M to wait her turn. If it happens again, I calmly mention that the kids need be careful of the little kids. If it happens more than twice, I say something to the kid. If the parent won't say something, then I will. Usually the parents are pretty good, but every once in a while there is a bully whose parent could care less.

    I did think it was cute though because the last time I took M to the playground, there was a little boy maybe a year older than her and he kept telling all the big kids to leave her alone. I was appreciative of that.

    M is good about it all though. If a kid pushes past her, she looks at me and says "It's okay, Mommy, I wait my turn".


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