Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Playground Politics

This weekend I took the boys to a Playland at a popular fast food restaurant. I was meeting a good friend of mine and we figured since her grandkids are older and her house is not crazy-proofed, that meeting at a play-place would be the smartest and most relaxing way to catch up. I was right...for a time.

As it got closer and closer to lunch more and more kids started coming. Kiki is fine in these places. Although he's small, he's quick and strong and can navigate his way around well. Boogs on the other hand is littler and new to the world of play structures.

So when a little boy (probably around 3) decided it was fun to block my Boogs while he was trying to go through the tunnel, I started feeling the anxiety. The helpless feeling you get when you know that your kids are 10 feet above your head and the only way to get to them is to climb through a maze of tunnels and mesh netting made for someone under four feet.

Usually Jimmy is with us and because he's tall and very skinny he can slither up and extract any stuck child. I, on the other hand, would be afraid of collapsing the whole thing or getting my butt stuck in some area too small for me.

This little Orange Shirt kid was blocking Boogs, laying along the mesh tunnel so Boogs wouldn't be able to get by without stepping on him. I went over and asked Orange Shirt nicely to please let him by. But God love Boogs, he already powered through, stepping on the kid and screeching his irritation. Altercation avoided.

However as the boys did their last round before leaving, the spit hit the fan. About 10 kids were on their way to the slide and little Orange shirt was up there too. Suddenly I hear Boogs yelling and the line stops. Kids start piling up but I can't see what's happening through the tube. I only hear Boogs yelling angrily. I start to panic, I yell at Kiki to go help Boogs, so he back-tracks to where his brother is and out of my sight in the tube.

Then I hear him start to yell and cry. Ok, I'm in freak out mama mode now. I'm angry and scared and jumping to all sorts of conclusions about Orange Shirt, and afraid that Boogs won't be able to keep his cool and will end up biting. Because in my mind little Orange Shirt trouble-maker is blocking the way again.

I yell out "Who is the kid with the orange stripped shirt!" No one says anything. Parents start hovering, my kids are screaming. I hear another start to cry. I stand on a stool and start banging on the tube yelling for everyone to GO DOWN THE SLIDE. More crying, no one coming down and I was like "Screw this, I'm going up!". I head up the slide meeting Boogs on his way down looking clearly pissed off and upset. Kiki comes right after, quite unhappy...and guess who was next. Orange Shirt, who was no doubt crying from disappointment that his victims got away. I gathered up both kids and we left right after that.

But it makes me think again about that happy balance at the playground. The fine line between push over and bully that can set up how your children act the rest of their life. What do you do when your child is riding the little airplane and another child wants a turn? Or if your kids arrives at the same time to the last swing? What happens if there is another kid who is taking away a toy that your child is playing with? ugh! That balance between sharing and doormat is a hard line to play, don't you think? And I sure don't want to set my kids up to be passive push overs, but I also don't want them to think the world owes them everything. So what's a parent to do?

I suppose there is always compromise. Each kid taking turns for a few minutes each, sharing. But then who gets to go first? And what if your kid was first and you want him to go first and the other child starts complaining. Absent parent/nanny is chatting off somewhere and you can whisper fiercely at the child to stop being a spoiled brat because he was second, but then you'd look quite horrible for fighting with a little kid.

I do know how not to handle the play-land bullies. And that's by getting into a fistfight with another mom at Chuck E. Cheese during a birthday party. That's what these freaky moms did when their 9 and 13 year old sons argued over an arcade game . In.Sane.

Well at least I know I'm not alone as evidenced by Le Binky Bitch's post from yesterday. Go check out her crazy play land tale after sharing your own experiences with me.
What's that? You want to comment? Just click on the itty-bitty words below that say "Gimme Some Sugar". Can you see them? Good. We can't wait to chat with you.


Brother JimmyEatWorld said...

Good job on handling that one by yourself babe. Its hard to speak up in a crowd sometimes and you did that asking who the orange shirt kid was to try to get the parent involved.

I think as long as we teach them to share, and that its ok to stand up for yourself they'll be fine.

If that doesn't work, then we'll teach them to box ;)

Beck said...

Good job - I think there's a difference between hovering over your kid and not letting them handle ANYTHING OR stepping in when they're in a sitution that's too difficult/dangerous for them to figure out.

Sister Honey Bunch said...

I remember when Logan was much smaller telling him that if some kid tried to shove him away from the swing or out of line to just say "Hey, I was here first." It was so hard for him to do it but I thought it was an important lesson.

He does much better now, but he's not a fighter so it still makes him want to puke.

saintseester said...

I can't remember anything like this happening to us. I probably didn't go to playlands often. What I do remember is having to deal with kids that were over the size limit, barreling through. That could hurt one of the littler kids - so, then is when I would speak up.

Sarah said...

Fortunately, my girls were too shy to get into any playground scraps but I love your photos. Makes me want to crawl into a tube myself and take a slide.

Ashlee said...

What gets me about this story is that even after you asked about the orange shirt boy...there was no one claiming him! Where was his parent/guardian? If it was my kid being the bully he'd be getting an earful from me about how nobody likes a bully, does he want to have friends? Can you tell we've had that talk.

I just try to let me kids know that there is a difference between standing up for yourself and being a bully. Bullies are selfish. I so feel your pain! And what is so hard is that some parents don't do a dang thing about THEIR bully.

High Hopes said...

I agree with Ashlee, where was orange shirt's parents. I hate it when you take your child to a 'kid friendly' place and then parents don't watch what their little darlings are up to, leaving other kids to fend off playground marauders.

My dd was bullied in preschool by one particular kid. Everytime I would pick her up, he would be in time out for doing something, hurting someone or throwing things. Finally all of the parents got together and held a meeting and let the daycare diva know that this behavior was too much and she had to do something.

It worked for a little while, but not long. One day my daughter came home with a bite mark on her arm, this little brat bit her so hard that it left a full impression of his chompers on her arm. That was it, I put on my whoopass boots and went in and had it out with the daycare diva and the mom of the demon spawn. Things ultimately got better, but the problems continued and they ended up going to the same elementary school and the behavior continued. We had meeting after meeting at the school.

Finally I told my daughter that if he came at her she could defend herself and shove him out of the way yelling at the top of her lungs "?????? leave me alone". A few times of that it worked. I also had to defend her actions with the school because they accused her of being aggressive. I went in there and told them that enough was enough, she was constantly being bullied and we had tried everything and this was the last resort, because what they were doing wasn't working.

If it continued I was going to have a little playground chat with demon spawn.

jennifer said...

Gah! This story is awful. Makes me just want to haul off and slap that orange shirt kid. Where ARE these bully's parents???

Anonymous said...

I have one of each--a timid 5 year old boy, and a pushy 2 year old girl. I am trying not to call her a bully, because I am trying to teach not to be. I feel bad for the other kids, and try hard to watch her and step in to prevent other kids from being pushed around. I give her time-outs, I pull her off playgrounds, and we go home sometimes, I always make her apologize, and we are just now beginning to turn a corner. But I also have a 5 year old to watch and a newborn to tend to, and occasionally really, really need to engage in grown-up conversation with other moms! So I hope other moms teach their kids to stand up for themselves, too. I need for kids to push my kid back, she needs natural consequences, not just punishments and lectures from Mom and Dad. As for what other moms can do, absolutley speak up loudly, though hopefully kindly as well, because yes, I am mortified when my kid pushes another kid. I also don't mind if a mom says something to my kid, as long as it is calm and instructional. And hopefully loud enough to get my attention if I wasn't previously looking in that direction. My daughter is only 2, and she is also often generous and friendly, and loves playing with kids. I don't know why she occassionally bonks another kid with a block or hits them on the shoulder. But we're working on it. I don't want other kids hurt, and I don't want people to see her as a bully. The whole situation breaks my heart.

Sister 7 said...

Playground politics is always hard. At the McWane Science Center last Thursday there were these 2 or 3 kids that kept throwing sand on my friend's little girl. I finally yelled at those kids (whose parents/ chaperones were right there watching everything) to watch out for the little kids and to quit throwing the sand. Parents who don't discipline there kids in situations like that drive me crazy. That means I have to watch out for all of the other little kids that will be stepped on by their little girl or boy because they feel their kids are just being kids and don't need to learn how to play or have manners. They also don't want to give up their time with whoever it is they are talking too and discipline their child. It is very frustrating!

Sister Sassy said...

Yikes High Hopes!

The parents where in there eating. I didn't know which were his set but as all the kids started screaming and I got more frantic they started hovering. I don't think they had any clue that he was probably the instigator.

Anon- My Boogs can lean toward bully and I hate getting the report that he's bitten (thank goodness that was only twice) so I watch him closely when he is around smaller children. Boogs is just more aggressive for some reason, Kiki is not at all. So hopefully you didn't feel like this post was directed at you. Mostly my biggest worry is how to have that right balance and how to speak up when other parents aren't.

Sister 7- there was a lady in our playgroup in Chi-town who's little guy was a total bully. I had to totally mediate the entire time that kid was anywhere around. I couldn't stand it. And he would just start beating on his little brother or another child and I would tell him that was mean. I think he told on me once lol!

Dani said...

We very rarely go to indoor playgrounds, largely because of this sort of behaviour. Without fail, every time we have, there has been one child (or maybe 2) who act like bullies. They are the children without visible parents. Which to me, is most of the reason that they act in such a way. No parental supervision means that they aren't taught boundaries. I have big issues with such disrespectful parenting. It's disrespectful to others and it's disrespectful to the children who aren't given the opportunity to learn how to play well.

What I believe further compounds the issue is that these places always serve food riddled with nasty chemicals, colours and preservatives that send children absolutely stark raving bonkers. Not a good thing for an unsupervised bully with no social boundaries. Which is the main reason we so rarely go. I can't stay long enough to get value for money as I have to leave to eat. I won't let my kids eat that muck.

Wade Huntsinger said...

Been there and done that. Our son could play with any child but if he was being bullied Chad would have just stepped on the kid or something. Christie on the other hand would have retreated crying. Now Chad is in the Army at 6'3" and 240 pounds. Block now little punk!!!hehe

Wade Huntsinger said...

Oh yea, I saw "The rest of the Gospel" and decided to order it, Can't wait until it comes.

Sister Sassy said...

Good Wade! I hope you like it. I've enjoyed it so far, I'm such a slow reader!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

What I can't get over is how often the mother doesn't care that her child is terrorizing a crowd of others. There are the mothers who do, of course, but often that seems to be the one just avoiding the whole scene. And then I wonder if the kid is just trying to get attention from any adult.

High Hopes said...

When I wrote about the demon spawn child that was terrorizing my kid I remembered an incident this morning which I think pretty well sums it all for his mom.

We were talking about the kids and what was going on and she uttered this statement "I'm actually afraid of my son", now this was when he was only 6 years old. That shocked me to no end when she said that. I in my kind and gentle way suggested she seek professional help for both her and her son, it sounded to me like they both needed counselling and she needed a parenting course. After the initial round of meetings and ultimatums at my daughter's school in the kindergarten year I talked to the principal and she agreed with me and never put them in the same class again.

In grade 3 he moved away which was great and it was quite apparent in our school body that he had victimized many children. I was doing the 'snoopy' happy dance along with about five other parents.

I think some kids don't get enough good attention and they think that any attention is better than none.

Daddy Forever said...

It isn't easy being a parent, is it? Unless someone is in danger, I usually give the kids a chance to work it out themselves before I intervene. Then I try to be fair as best as I can.

Sister Sassy said...

Good advice Daddy:)

Highhopes, when I read your original comment I wondered if she was afraid of him. It may be that the child has an imbalance of some sort. I have a friend who's daughter is awfully aggressive and she's at a loss what to do anymore. She's tried everything.