One of the main reasons that we frequent the park so often (despite fighting cabin fever), is so the the chiquita can socialize. Human interaction is this crazily intricate web that takes acrobatics to navigate - and here we are, as parents, fumbling to teach it to our little ones. Mostly the playground is a good experience. Leeloo has her little clique of friends that she plays with, but she also includes anyone that is in her little 3 foot bubble. Age two is nice that way - no discrimination. Occasionally there are disagreements, someone claims a toy, or sand gets tossed in an eye, but luckily these moments pass quickly and all is forgiven easily.
Today I got a glimpse of what I hope is not the future yet to come.
The park was super busy. Every other day there is a mama exercise group that floods the playground. The whole place vibrates on these days. Leeloo was playing quietly on her own and I was letting her be independent. However, I still watch her, and all the kids that I know and love. Actually, I watch all the kids - even the ones I don't know, because they are kids, and vulnerable, and very apt to needing an adult to help with something.
I was there watching, when a situation started brewing. It was innocent. M was at the top of the slide and R jumped on the bottom, ready to climb up. A scenario that happens almost everyday - no biggie whatsoever. M's mom intervened, first asking R to let M slide down, and then when R was not compliant she tried to get M to move over to the next slide. M got upset, wondering why, if he was there first, he had to be the one to move. These boys were 4 and 4 and a half. The younger more gentle and the older definitely more assertive. Unfortunately, the scene devolved and poor M got taken away for a time out. Not because he was the one in the wrong, but because he choose not to listen to his mother after he became upset.
At this point nothing out of the ordinary had happened. R was certainly being bratty, but most kids have their turn. It wasn't until M and his mom were gone that I overheard R excitedly say to his friend (who looked like a scared deer), "Look! We got M in trouble! He'll probably have to go home! He'll probably have to go straight to his room!". These words were laced with equal parts menace and glee. It was terrible. And unacceptable. And I couldn't let it pass.
The conversation that followed went something like this:
Me: "R, that was not a nice thing to do to M. Where is your mother? We need to talk to her."
R: "No we don't! I have no mother!"
Me: (to the scared deer boy) "R is not being a good guy and his mom needs to know. Which one is she?"
R: (with intimidation) "Don't tell her! She wants to get me in trouble!"
Me: (again to deer boy) "If R was being mean to you, would you want him to stop? Would you want his mom to know?"
With that, the little deer boy pointed to a group of moms that were in exercise gear, talking, with their backs to the playground. I thanked him and looked at R with my most serious face, and said: "I know who your mother is now. If you play nice, I won't have to talk to her."
The playground chaos took over and I thought that was the end of it. M's mom came back (having two other children to keep tabs on) and felt guilty for essentially punishing M for being bullied. Eventually she went back over to M, who was still upset, and I overheard R saying something like: "let's go look at M in trouble!". Oh kids - they are sometimes awful!
I stepped in immediately and told the boys to leave M his space. When met with more indignation by R I went to his mom. I slipped into her circle, and didn't wait for her conversation to end before I quietly told her what happened. Immediately she yelled at R to come towards us. I calmly explained what I had told her and she demanded if it was true. He hung his head and said yes. She stood up and grabbed his arm and pulled him over to M to apologize - thanking me, while threatening him.
I felt bad for the kid. He was a bully and he totally upset me, but the outcome of the whole situation upset me more. Bullies learn their behavior. This boy is only 4 (and a half). The whole time his mother was chatting, back turned to the playground. When the little deer boy pointed her out, I watched to see if she'd turn to check in on R, but I never saw her face. R made some bad decisions, but I won't hold it against him. I will be nice (but on guard), when I see him again.
Throughout this whole scene I knew where Ripley was and that she was ok. She is my priority. Throughout my day I have to excuse myself from conversations because she requires my attention. I teach her patience, but I am also protective and interested and concerned with her well being.
At the end of it M's mom thanked me for talking to R's mother. She said that it was so hard for her to do that. I let her know that I will always be there to stand up for our kids. I am confrontational. Maybe it's the latina in me, but I will not be timid when our kids are at stake.