Playground Trauma*

*This post could just have easily been titled "Playground Drama," so rest assured no children were injured in gathering material for this post.

Let's start with the exciting news: we had a showing of the house today! Yay! I ran around like a crazy person, but I think the house looked really good for its maiden voyage into real estate. The realtor requested from 4:30 to 5:00, so I loaded up the kids and we headed to the park.

Q and I went to the park the other day during Z's dance class. T has told me over and over that a bad element hangs out there, but I had never seen any evidence of it. Until yesterday. Very scary gang-banger-looking people in big old cars with low profile tires and rims that were worth more than the car. So. Today we headed to an adjacent small town, a suburb of Small Town, if you will, to go to a park with a less sullied reputation.

The park was quite nice: fully fenced with a gate, fresh pea gravel, new equipment. (Bonus - no graffiti!) We were the only ones there at first, but soon we were joined by a family with four kids accompanied by both parents. As they were walking up, I was thinking, "Score! Someone for everyone to play with!"

It has never occurred to Z that there could possibly be anyone out there who wouldn't just die to be her friend, so she walks right up to the oldest girl and says, "I'm-Z-this-is-my-brother-Q-I'm 4." This is her standard opening gambit. It has worked very well for her. Until now. The other little girl, Anna (I can use her real name because a.) her parents have no idea who I am; and b.) she was a little shit to my baby) gave Z the hairy eyeball and replied, "I'm six." in a tone of voice that made it clear that she thought herself above Z. Her younger brother, Jackson (see above), followed Anna's lead and ran off when Z approached them.

Z completely missed the social cues and trailed after them to the swings. She hasn't figured out how to get herself going yet, so she was swinging on her tummy. The two older kids were making snarky comments to each other at Z's expense. Stupid playground stuff like, "She's never going to go as high as us." The parents? Did nothing.

Z got bored with swinging and headed back over to the playscape. She and Q were climbing the steps and sliding down the different slides. Anna came over with her little sister in tow. She slid down the slide with her in her lap, and Z followed. The next time, Z went down first because Anna had to hold her sister's hand and they weren't making good time. Z wasn't being spiteful or cutting in line, but it clearly made Anna mad. The third time, it looked like Z was going to go down first again, so Anna picked up her sister and practically pushed Z out of the way so they could go first. The parents? Did nothing.

To be fair, Z wasn't entirely without fault. A couple of times she squeezed in front of the other kids on stairs or the climbing wall, but I noticed and told her to quit it. Finally, the mom noticed that Anna was practically yanking her sister's arm out of the socket in her efforts to beat Z to the slide, and she made Anna let her sister find her own way around. So Anna drifted off to be replaced with the more openly hostile Jackson.

The playscape at this park was very small, with the highlight being the spiral slide. Both Z and Q were pretty excited about it and kept going down the slide, up the stairs, and across the playscape and down the slide again in a continuous loop. After they had gone down, Jackson climbed up the slide and just sat there as Z and Q lined up behind him. He looked over at me, gave me a smirk and continued to block the way. Eventually, Z complained to me that he wouldn't move. I responded with, "Yes, he is being very unpleasant. Why don't you go down another slide?"

I guess this must have caught his parents attention because they told him to go down the slide and he reluctantly complied. Z and Q followed practically on top of him then scurried off to go again. Jackson stayed at the bottom of the slide and started loading it up with the pea gravel. Z looked down questioningly from the top of the slide. He looked me right in the eye then said to Z, "I bet your mother would let you do this!" Just to make sure Z knew where I stood, I replied, "No, I wouldn't let my children do that." Then he was all gloating, "See? I told you!" Like he'd won some sort of contest. The parents? Did nothing.

Finally, when Z had to plow through a pile of gravel to get off the end of the slide, his parents noticed and told him to quit. I'd had enough, so we packed up and left.

In the car I gave Z the if-someone-isn't-nice-to-you-they-aren't-worth-your-time speech. Given her complete disregard for social cues, I'm not even sure Z knew they were being mean to her (well, except for the blocking the slide thing. That wasn't subtle.). Possibly, I was more traumatized by the encounter than she was. I guess it kind of gave me a flashback of all the times I was on the outside looking in (an occupational hazard of being a military kid). But I don't want Z to think it is okay for anyone to treat her poorly or that she is somehow less.

In the end, I guess no harm was done. We headed to the library ($17 fine! Ack!) where Z walked up to the first girl she saw and said, "I'm-Z-this-is-my-brother-Q-I'm 4." It worked like a charm.


  1. I was one of those that was constantly on the outside looking in (no military kid here), maybe that's precisely why I don't generally like people much in a face to face situation.

  2. Good for you. Yep, it's a challenge.

  3. KIDS...I totally understand, until last yr, my now 8 yr old girl was an only child & she is very friendly, always going up & asking other kids to play. On our vacation @ the beach last yr, she was similarly blown off by a girl she wanted to play with, wished I could jump in & tell the girl how rude she was! At least her parents told her to be nicer! Can't wait to read more!

    I'm signing up to follow you from the Under 100 club @ MBC.

  4. It's always a challenge to watch the happenings at the playground. I am just amazed at how many kids run wild with no supervision. You are a great mom! You handled it all beautifully!

  5. Shame on those parents for not monitering their kids behavior. It is really a wonderful quality that Z has, I'm so glad that she is the friendly type. My daughter is very shy and she needs someone friendly to come up to her and start the ball rolling.

    It looks like rude parents make rude kids by setting the example.

  6. This is a PRIME example of why I dislike most kids and their parents!

  7. Other people's kids, man! Why some parents don't take a real interest in their children is beyond me. I just don't get it.

    I, however, would say something to parents like that. I would also say something to the child. Rude children become rude adults with a sense of entitlement. Those are the people that piss me off and make me want to put a banana in their tailpipes!


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