Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Playground politics

Every Tuesday morning Noo and I catch up with a couple of my girlfriends and their kids for a play in a park. Noo has friends to play with and I get to catch up with my mates. Perfect. It is the social highlight of my week.

We usually go somewhere in the inner west or inner eastern suburbs of Sydney. Somewhere within 10-15 minutes drive from home suits everyone. There is really only one specification now the kids are big enough not to need an enclosed play area and that is good coffee.

Just because it is funny:
Noo and I love this song. Check out his banana butt!

We each pack our kids snacks and lunch, a drink bottle and a change of clothes. We get a little perch somewhere to dump the bags and scooters and generally we each have one eye on the kids and one on the conversation. If a kid goes out of our field of vision, we take it in turns to go hunt the little bugger down.

Conversations are started but never finished as we juggle the requests for a push on a swing, a drink, or nagging for an ice cream. And then there's the tears. The "he did this to me", or "she won't get off my scooter", or "so and so just pushed me". This is the part I hate the most.

If I'm honest, I don't really like the whole playground experience. So much anxiety! But I especially hate dealing with little kids hurting each other. With toddlers I think most of the time they are doing it out of frustration with not being able to express themselves. Noo went through a terrible time in his twos of biting other kids. It was just horrible watching him bare his teeth at any kid who got in his way. I had to shadow him everywhere. Not to protect him but to protect the other kids around him. I felt this was my duty.

To my constant amazement, not all parents are like this. They let their little monsters wonder around the playground menacing any kid that gets in their way. It's mostly boys I've noticed, but girls can do it too.

If a kid has a go at my kid when it is undeserved, I will step up and defend my child. I cannot help myself. If I witness some child deliberately hurt mine, I'm there. I'm asking him where his mother (or father) is and then I'm asking her why she wasn't watching her kid more carefully. But I know there has to be a point where I let Noo fight his own battles. It is knowing when to jump in or stay on the sidelines that has me in a state of despair.

There was one incident where I watched this kid stalk Noo around an enclosed play area trying to get Noo's toy truck off him. Noo was about two at the time. I had been keeping an eye on him from a healthy distance as he walked around with his truck in his hand. This bigger boy who was about six or seven had shown an interest in the truck when they had both been in the sandpit earlier. Noo had clearly shown that he didn't want to share.

So this kid, who has no idea I'm wondering around in the background, gets on his scooter, rolls past Noo, deliberately knocking him to the ground and the truck out of his hand. It was a completely premeditated attack! Noo gets up grabs his toy back and before I can get there this older thug has punched Noo square in the guts!

Poor little Noo doubles over, winded and in shock, starts struggling to get his breath back while gasping little screams. I, needless to say, went fucking ballistic! "You horrible little boy" I yell. "Where is your mother?" I ask this rotten little ratbag while trying to hold and comfort Noo. His mother is nowhere to be seen until I'm really having it at him. "Where is this kid's mother?" I'm bellowing across the playground. I completely lost it.

This woman finally shows some interest in the fact that her kid is in a bit of trouble but completely ignores me. No sorry, no asking her evil spawn to apologise to Noo, nothing! I'm telling her that if her kid was older I'd have the cops there charging him with assault. I was so fucking angry! Who lets their kid get away with that? I mean, really?! She then lets the kid continue to play and torment every other child that got in his way. And Noo was not the only one to end up in tears at the hands of this boy.

Later the friend I was with overheard the group of mothers who knew the woman and her kid all bitching about how her son was always picking on other children and about how she never disciplined him. They were saying she should take him home to teach the ratbag that that is not the way you behave at the park! He had serious aggressive behaviour issues and needed some guidance from his parents.

This is an extreme example of the playground politics that I'm talking about. I know I could have been a little bit more controlled in how I handled the situation, but he's my baby, you know?

What about you? Do you speak out for your kids at the park? Or have I overcrossed the line where I should have allowed Noo to sort out his own battles? When is it right to ask for an apology or demand the other parent involved to take responsibility for their child's behaviour?

Ugh. Playground politics. I do not like it.



Denwise aka Denyse Whelan said...

Hi there, I haven't read your blog before but your post title drew me here and I also do FYBF with Grace. That is a tough one when it's kids who play on same equipment and with different kids. I know that many parents treat this time as a "time out" and for good reason. It's needed! My take on this is that we still need to keep an eye on our own kids...and it sounds like this other person didn't. Where it gets tricky for parents is the time you say something to the kid...I forget where I read it but it was a blog post last year where it got very heated when a mum decided to tell off another mum's child & all hell broke loose. It is sad isn't it that not everyone shares our values and ethics. I hope that you find places where you can relax a bit too! Denyse

Grace said...

Oh, I can totally relate to this! The twinlets were just two (they're two and a half now) when this 4 year old kid was stalking one of them, trying to steal his Thomas the Tank engine. I kept giving him the evil eye and jumped in when he tried to steal it. Of course, his mum was somewhere in lala land, oblivious to the entire thing. Completely riles me up!
Playground politics! Ugh!

The Babbling Bandit said...

Hey Denyse. Thanks for dropping by!

The example I gave was our most horrible experience to date. Usually most mums are there apologising for their child or asking the child to apologise to Ned, just as I always do when Neddy can't control himself. Time out is definitely an excellent way to get the message across that certain behaviours are not acceptable.

This stuff happens. There will always been tears in the playground, but it essential that parents are there to help guide their kids through the difficult times.

Thanks again.


The Babbling Bandit said...

It is full on, isn't it Grace! I had no idea that playgrounds could be such a battle ground before I had Ned.

Thanks for your comment.


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