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.