Observations at the Playground

Playground by Christi Vondrak

What a difference a few hours of sleep make. Yesterday, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Our boys spent the first half of the day outside at our house. They dug around some old wood piles and found many large black beetles. Quite fond of their new ‘pets’, the boys found buckets and proceeded to make a new homes for the beetles. These beetles provided hours of entertainment for the boys, to the point that it was hard getting the boys to take their naps due to a bit of separation anxiety.

While the boys were sleeping, I asked my husband if he would be interested in a family trip to a local playground. We agreed we’d take the boys if they had good naps. Happily, the boys did have good naps. When I asked the oldest if he was interested in going to the playground, he took some time to contemplate the idea. He really hoped to play with his beetles, and he was concerned if he went to the playground, he’d miss valuable beetle play time. The possibilities became a dilemma for this 5yr old. He then asked me if he could bring the beetles with him to the playground. *shudder* The thought of having the beetles in the car with me was enough to send chills up my spine. But, I am a big girl, right? I’m not scared. Ok, I am, but how could I even consider separating my son from his prized beetles?

With the buckets of beetles safely in the back of the car, we loaded our car and headed to the playground. I was not surprised to see so many families enjoying the perfect afternoon. And, the boys quickly got involved in the first playground we saw. The beetles were kept safe with me and my husband. And then the boys decided they wanted to try out the other playground just down the walkway. So, we gathered our things and walked to the other section.

This section had more parents and more kids, though the parents were not necessarily close to their kids. I understand it is a playground, enclosed by a fence, so parents feel comfortable letting their kids run around without close supervision. I, too, felt comfortable enough to give the boys space. But, as a parent, I also felt responsible for watching the boys and doing my best to make sure they didn’t get into or cause any trouble. Honestly, I wish other parents did the same.

Now, I’ll tell you, on our way home from the park, my husband made it clear that not all parents are like us. And, he made sure I realized this was just the start of the kinds of situations we’ll face as the boys get older. Still, I grumbled under my breath. I was pleased that my husband felt the same way I did regarding respect and responsibility, but I was cranky that other parents could be such dorks.

See, while we were at the playground we ran into this toddler and his Mom. I’m sure you know this Mom – perhaps you are this Mom. Your child does nothing wrong. And, if your child does something wrong, you find it comical and harmless. So, when our oldest was making a tunnel in the sandbox, and your toddler came and wrecked it, you laughed it off and let your child continue with the destruction. And, when our youngest was playing in a corner of the sandbox and your son came and threw sand on him, your husband laughed it off, picked up the son and walked away. You left our youngest covered in sand, with not so much as an ‘I’m sorry.’

Neither one of our sons reacted to the poor behavior displayed by the toddler. When the toddler started destroying the tunnel our oldest made, our son did say, “Hey, stop.” The toddler ignored him, as did the parents. And, when the toddler threw sand on our other son, our son remained calm and said nothing. Though he had been ambushed, he kept his cool as he tried to get the sand out of his mouth, hair and eyes.

I kept my cool, too. I wanted to say something. I truly wanted to say something to the toddler and the parents. Alas, I contemplated the battles, and I chose not to pick this battle to tackle. I suspect more battle possibilities are ahead of me, so I should learn restraint now. The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that 30 minutes prior to the tunnel-wrecking, sand-tossing toddler incident, this same toddler was hanging around our boys and watching the beetles.

While playing on the playground, our oldest decided to sit by the slides and visit with his beetles. Slowly, a crowd of kids gathered, as they watched these big, black beetles in awe. Surprisingly, the bulk of the kids gathering were girls. And, one girl was daring enough to hold the beetles. [That little girl is going to be one cool chick when she gets older.] The Moms watched in horror, as their kids touched the beetles. I had the hee-bee-jee-bees, too; so, I don’t fault these Moms. And, I laughed with many of the Moms, as we found it funny that more girls were interested in the beetles than boys.

Then ‘that’ toddler walked up to the buckets. He had a hand full of playground bark ready to toss in the bucket. I stopped him, saying nicely, “Oh, please don’t put anything in the bucket.” The Mom walked up and did remove the stuff from her son’s hands. He stood there watching the beetles. I could tell the wheels in his mind were turning, but I thought he was cute and harmless. So much for first impressions, eh? Anyway, he stood and watched the beetles for at least 15 minutes. Seriously, I was blown away with how much attention our sons received with their beetles. I suppose the attention was more on the beetles than our boys, still I couldn’t believe the attention. And, I was quite impressed with the girls. The girls stood around and watched much longer than the boys.

Long story short [too late], when we walked over to the sandbox and the toddler who had just observed the beetles began to ‘play dirty’, I was floored. Though the Mom and I shared smiles and pleasant words while observing the beetles, the scene seemed to change in the sandbox. Why is it some parents ignore their child’s bad behavior? And, why is it so hard for some parents to offer a simple apology if their child does something to another child?

I was more upset about the playground events yesterday. Again, several hours of sleep can improve a person’s mood and lighten one’s perspective. Still, I dread our oldest starting Kindergarten. I’m afraid I won’t be making many friends with the parents in the school. I told my husband that I was either going to be hated severely, because I stepped up and spoke out; or, I was going to be liked, because I stepped up and spoke out. My husband said it would probably be somewhere in the middle, liked by some and hated by others. We’ll see. I’ll play nice in the sandbox, and I expect them to do the same.

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