Rites of Passage

The other day I took the boys to the playground in between running errands, and despite being a little warm, it was really nice.  It wasn’t too crowded yet, even though you can tell schools are letting out early more often and pretty soon, these places will be dominated by the older kids. 

Max lately, ever since he’s been able to keep himself going on the swings, is completely enamored of them.  He always liked swinging when he was a wee one, and now that he can do it by himself, it’s taken on a whole new meaning.  Any time I mention we’re going to a playground he’ll ask, “Does it have swings?”  You’d be surprised how many in this day & age do not.

Anyway, I digress.  So we’re playing, having a good time, I couldn’t help but notice a fairly large group ( maybe 8-10 ) of kids that seemed to be a mixture of siblings & friends, boys and girls, but still all together.  It was difficult to figure out who was watching them (it seemed like no one) but I finally realized it was a single older woman.  Most of them seemed pretty nice, but there was a group of older boys (by older, I mean older than Max- maybe 6 or 7) that were playing a little rougher & definitely more aggressive than the younger set.  These boys kept screaming & roaring in each other’s faces, I suppose as some sort of game they were playing. 

I noticed Max observing them at one point, with a curious expression on his face, sort of like he wanted to join in, but didn’t quite know how.  In preschool, he’d been one of the more outgoing kids in his class (this being my unbiased, motherly opinion, of course) and seemed to feel comfortable talking to everyone.  I’m not saying he doesn’t have his social issues, but he can definitely hold his own.  Maybe all kids are a little intimidated by older peers, I dunno.

Anyway, Max goes about playing & heads over to the swings.  I am pushing Wyatt on the “baby’ swings, making sure I’m keeping an eye on Max at the same time.  I see one of the older kids come over & get on the swing next to Max, and a couple of his friends followed.  They resumed their roaring game, which I think Max must’ve equated to playing super-heroes with his dad. He then held out his hand, poised it like Spidey, aimed it toward the kid that sat next to him and, in his best web-slinging sound effect voice said, “PSSSHHHTTT!  I am SPIDERMAN!”

The older kid just looked at him and goes, “Yeah?… So?”  as if he could care less.  Max just looked at him, totally puzzled for a few seconds.  Then the kid stood up, held his hand right in front of Max’s face, and mockingly said, “PSHHHT!” & walked away.  Max just watched him, confused. 

I know it’s silly, they’re just kids, and as far as mean kids go, that experience was pretty tame.  But to witness my boy trying to join in & be so rudely dismissed was so hard to take.  I thought to myself, “This is the first of many experiences to come, he’s going to have to learn how to deal with it”.  But I would be lying if I said I didn’t also secretly hope the little bugger would catch an urgent case of the runs in a place where there was no immediate potty available (oh, I’m kidding, of course….. kinda).

I also realized that it’s probably going to be the first of many times that I’m going to have to witness this stuff happen to my children, and I, too am going to have to learn how to deal with it.  Right now I might be able to get away with running over to him, giving him a big hug, and telling him how nice he was, and those boys were mean, but he did the right thing by being friendly (which I did).  But that’s not going to fly in a couple of years. 

I have to say, the whole experience seemed to roll off his back.  He didn’t try to play with those boys again.  He stayed on his own, happily swinging, until I let him know it was time to go.  It’s been a day and a half, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who’s still thinking about it.  I think I will most likely be the one that has the harder time with this kind of stuff (let’s hope).  And as difficult as this is to say, knowing now that he can handle it,  I would much rather have him on the receiving end than the one dishing it out.  Of course I want him to stick up for himself, but I would never want him to be the mean kid who makes people feel bad about themselves, just for the sake of claiming alpha kid.

As we were leaving, I noticed three moms walking down from the pavilion area, casually looking for their kids.  “Oh there they are,” the one mom said, as they headed over to said group.  I wondered where they all could’ve been for the past 40 minutes.  I don’t like to gratuitously pass judgement on other moms. I feel like we should all be on the same side, and be more understanding toward each other, but…. it did sort of explain a lot. 

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9 Responses

  1. I am glad that Max did not get up and kick the kids ass.

  2. I still remember something like this happening to my child when she was 3, and she’s 12 now. I recall wanting to kill the mean child. You’re a much better person than I, with just the diarrhea wishes.
    I think you’re right, for the most part these things sting us more than they sting our kids, thankfully.

  3. Hi ,
    I totally feel your pain.. I too have a 4 year old boy, and have witnessed an ‘older’ group of kids being rude to him on a playground when all he wanted to do was just play with them.. It made me so mad,sad, and angry, but did not seem to effect him at all.
    I think I am the one that is going to have the hardest time with watching my little one grow up in what can be a really cruel world….. You know!
    Guess you just can’t protect them from life, and that scares me.
    Anyway, love your blog. You are sooo talented.
    🙂

  4. These kind of incidents are the most painful as a parent. And it does get a little worse as they get older. We just have to hope we have given them tools to help cope with it. And then we can sit back and secretly wish the rotten little kid hurting our kid’s feelings gets a painful case of the poopies. I love that scene in the Hand that Rocks the Cradle where the crazy lady goes up to the mean kid and says something to the effect of “If you ever touch her again I’m going to rip your [effing] arm and beat you to death with it.” Or something like that. Love it! Mean kids suck.

  5. Well said, Lauren. I have had some of the same thoughts when me extroverted 4 year has gone up to try and play with an older kid clique. I don’t want anyone to make my kids sad or reject them because I think they are wonderful, most of the time, that is. 😉

  6. Amen, girl!

    My nine year old son has these problems sometimes. The thing that makes me mad is, it is usually his 12 year old brother being mean. Sometimes his almost 16 year old brother. They think what the 9 year old does/says/finds amusing is “lame” and they don’t mind telling him. Even if it means they have extra chores, have to write down what they did wrong, ask his forgiveness and offer a… *shudder*…hug.

    Sometimes they tell him by making faces or snorting noises and giving each other knowing looks. They think they are subtle but he notices:( And I CERTAINLY do. I remind them they played the same games, found the same things exciting and they of course, knowing ALL, deny this. It wouldn’t be so bad, if he was not an incredibly sensitive and introverted soul. The older two pretty much are more like Max. They have had these things happen to them and they speak up for themselves or shrug it off.

    You know what I have been known to do, though?? Especially as I have aged. I say something. I am sure sometimes you will also. You have to pick your battles and you seem to be one who knows that. Once Max gets to a certain age, he won’t appreciate you speaking up for him. But there are times when that very thing has happened and I have said, “He is four years old. He thinks you are a big cool kid. He was just wanting to interact with you. Try and think of others’ feelings more, ok??” And then smiled at the kid.

    OH! I know what it is like to be on the other end. I have heard my one son say some mean things to other kids and I tell you WHAT! I don’t cause a scene, but that boy of mine goes and says he is sorry, trust me. He has only done that a few times (he learned soon that I don’t put up with that and he WILL go to the child and/or the mother. Weird thing is, sometimes the parents act like I am odd to have noticed, paid attention and then held my son accountable!?!?!?) and I have had talks with him about if he is upset or feeling low and isn’t happy with himself, there is no need to take it out on someone else. I am always available for him to talk. Don’t be mean to someone.

    You are right too. Mothers who can’t even be bothered to be involved and know where their own children are?? Speaks volumes…

  7. I just recently saw something similar happen to my son (3 and a half). He just kind of got on with his playing too, but it did make me mad!
    And yes, it’s sad to think that it’s just the start of this entire mess.

  8. Occassionally Bronte will come home distressed due to issues between friends at school and whilst I listen give her hugs and try to solve the problems, I too get mad at any injustices caused and want to go and get cross with the other child – I often talk to her about the problem but now she gets cross back at me and says “see that is why I didn’t want to tell you” Bronte has had a few freinds be quite mean and some I have witnessed but in the end they are still freinds 4 years later. MMM it’s tough being a mum.

    LOL at the disappearing mum’s – I am the mum that sends her 8yr old to look after her 2 yr old in the park whilst I enjoy chatting from the distant end (My eyes are always on the lookout though. :I

  9. I feel your pain. I hate to see my kids not be allowed in a group.

    At a pizza place one time a bratty little 8 or 9 year old girl called my 11 year old daughter “buckteeth” and she came and told me.

    As we were leaving she pointed the kid out to me and I saw her mom sitting there with like 5 other kids. I went over to her and said that I had been told her daughter had said something unkind to my daughter and the lady put her palm up at me and said “Don’t come any closer, just go away, I don’t need this right now.”

    Yep…can totally see where the kids get it.

    Sad.

    But on the other hand, my darling son, who is social and outgoing…blah blah blah…was playing on a playground when a stranger (kid) came up and introduced himself as “Steven”….my jerky little 8 year old son said “That’s a stupid name” and left the kid standing in the sandbox alone.

    I would have never believed it if I didn’t see it…well, maybe I would. ??

    So, maybe I am one of “those” moms.

    We are all a work in progress.

    🙂 The Maid

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