There is no better place for a kid to learn about life than the playground. It is a chaotic, fun and ruthless world where everyone is in it for themselves. People maintain some semblance of caring about others, but in reality you just wanna have fun and then get out there. Just like the world outside the playground, you can get very frustrated when you try to play by the rules and other people don’t give a shit.
Earlier today, my wife and I took our daughter to one of the local playgrounds in our area. It’s a great playground; it’s one of the newly renovated playgrounds (it should be because of the ridiculous rates that we pay) with that soft rubber on the ground that has superseded wood chips that double as a chocking hazard. The play equipment is new and embodies all the full spectrum of the rainbow. There isn’t any graffiti (yet). As I said earlier in the paragraph it’s pretty great. Why wouldn’t you take your kid to this playground? Answer: bad kids who are the result of lazy parenting.
The weather was good, so there were plenty of families at the playground. We’d taken our turn on the swing and we decided to let our 14-month-old daughter practice standing up in the middle carriage of a choo-choo train toy that she really enjoys. On the other side of the table in the middle of the carriage was a boy, who couldn’t have been much more than two, who was playing by himself. As my daughter began to steady herself the blonde haired little kid transformed into an overly aggressive football fan, slammed his hands on my daughter’s wrists, stared menacingly into her face and shouted ‘NO!’
I was in a state of shock. Surprisingly, my daughter demonstrated such quiet resilience in the face of such poor behavior. She barely even flinched. She just stood there with a stoic determination that I truly admired; I moved the boy’s hand from my daughter’s and told him to “keep his hands to himself”. The blonde haired bully moved away when his father called him over. The father, who I thought was a weak as day old dishwater, momentarily lifted his big dumb face from his smart phone and told his “not to push people” in the weakest of tones. I’m not sure of the pathetic attempt to discipline his child was the result of his own ineptitude or apathy, but either way I was angry. He didn’t even apologise on his child’s behalf. I was in half a mind to tell him how to raise children in a way that takes in the considerations of the rest of the universe, but his wife moved over and I assumed that he was going to be read the riot act about his lax approach to supervision. Unfortunately, the mother and father just rhapsodized on the fact that their son was behaving in an unacceptable manner because “he was pushed over at day care”. The parents just sat there and mused on the fact that their son couldn’t behave himself without doing anything about it. My wife put it best, “it’s a café approach to raising your child”. You sit there, at your metaphorical table, while your children raise themselves in front of you.
Look, I understand that raising kids is hard and that everyone’s circumstances are different. The kid, especially at an age where he can’t even count to seven, isn’t wholly responsible for his actions. A kid at that age is canvas with only a few layers, but the parents are the ones who are responsible for a child’s actions and behaviour. I’m not fully sure why I’m so upset about this. My daughter couldn’t have dealt with it in a better way, it’s probably down to the fact that someone I love was threatened and other people simply didn’t care. I reflected on my own experiences growing up, times when I was pushed around or bullied in some other fashion and others simply didn’t care. Another thing I learnt was what truly means to be a parent. You love someone more than you love yourself and feel every challenge that they experience as if it were magnified a thousand times.
The one positive I can gain from this experience is that I appreciate times when my parents went in to bat for me when I faced hard times as I was growing up. No one can fight every battle for you, but you sometimes need a helping hand to navigate the playground so that you can stand steadily and help someone else in the future.