Note: This column appears in the 9/22 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/23 issue of the Peoria Times
One of the less-than-fortunate side effects of having a child of your own is being forced to deal with that most unpredictable and confounding of creatures—other people’s children.
I took our 2-year old daughter to the playground last week, where a bunch of kids—all of them older than her—were already playing. On a nearby bench sat three moms, watching the children with the intensity of a hawk that is blind and flies into things. I couldn’t help but overhear portions of their conversation, and let’s just say I was surprised the playground wasn’t surround by ancient Greek columns. She said what? Puh-lease!
Anyway, our daughter loves older kids. She wants to do everything they’re doing. She instantly began climbing the parts of the playground the older kids had traversed, and looked at me for approval. Then she attempted to break the ice with an excited, “Hi!” to one of the older girls, who promptly turned up her nose and looked the other way.
Now, I can tell the difference between shyness and something else, and this reaction was most certainly not the former. And this girl was plenty old enough for manners. I don’t know, maybe it’s the pathetic look on our daughter’s little face when someone can’t so much as return a greeting, but it offends me. Greatly.
Then she wanted to slide down one side of a dual slide. Two boys in the vicinity, however, who noticed her moving that way, instantly rushed to the top of the slide and started hanging off of it, not moving, so that she couldn’t go. Our daughter waited patiently behind them, hands folded. (By the way, these descriptions of her are not meant to illicit sympathy. She has played the role of aggressor many times. But she’ll always say “hi” before biting you in the face. We’ve taught her well.) It irked me to no end these boys wouldn’t let her go, so I said to the older of the two, “Hey, you guys mind sliding down so someone else can have a turn?”
The kid looked back at me like I had just ask him the Pythagorean Theorem, and for a second I interpreted his stare as resistance. Were it my own kid, I would have grabbed him by the shirt and tossed him down the slide. Instead I stared back and through gritted teeth said, “Slide. Down. The slide.” Which he did, on his stomach, and which of course our daughter had to mimic, almost landing on her head before I caught her.
Our time at the playground proceeded as such, with our daughter weaving through thick clouds of rudeness and obnoxiousness while I monitored it all since no one else seemed willing to do so. I do realize that kids are kids, and quite often a reflection of how they are raised, but I am wondering if there is a specific age where we are allowed to transfer that resentment from the parent to the child? Four? Six? I say three. Don’t get me wrong—I’ll still resent the parents, but it’s an easier thing to channel in direct interactions.
Of course, I know we’re not supposed to judge at all, but, I mean … have you ever been to the playground?