Yesterday, I got a glimpse of what the twins have in store for them on the playground as they get older. It got me thinking about what kind of “playground mom” I want to be.
Matt and Nate love to play in the sand, so we took some of their sand toys to the park with us. Our good friends’ daughters, ages 8 and 7, sat in the sand with the boys to play while Keith, the girls’ mom, and I sat on a nearby bench to chat. Everyone was having a great time.
Soon, two little girls made their way over to the group. Their moms were sitting at a bench not too far away, but we couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see us. The girls picked up some of the boys’ toys and began to play nicely. All was well … until one of the girls, who was about 4 years old, began to knock down the sand castles my friend’s daughter had so carefully built. Rather than get involved, we adults decided to watch closely to see how it all unfolded.
My friend’s daughter turned to Miss Destructive and asked her nicely to please not knock down the castles. “OK,” she replied. Crisis averted … until Miss Destructive turned her attention to the fish molds Nate was playing with. She snatched them out of his hands and declared that they were her “cookies.” Now, if she had done that to Matt, he probably would have hit her and taken the toys back. But Nate, being the laid-back dude that he is, just stared at her with a confused look. After a few minutes of quietly watching her play with the toys she had stolen from him, he reached over to try to take one of the fish back.
“No!” she screeched. “Do not touch my cookies!!!”
Nate tried again, and again the girl yelled at him.
My maternal instincts kicked into high gear, and all I wanted to do was give that little brat a piece of my mind. But then my friend’s daughters did the dirty work for me.
“Those are not your toys,” they told her. “You can’t decide who can and can’t play with them.”
“These are my cookies,” the brat replied. “And no one can play with them!”
Without another word, my friend’s daughter marched over to the girl’s mom and ratted her out. The mom then called the girl over and proceeded to scream at her. The girl responded with a pretty significant temper tantrum that involved lots of crying and foot-stomping. She then tried to get my friend’s girls to be mean to her so she could tell on them. Rather than let the situation escalate, we gathered up the babies’ toys and left the playground.
Today, I could not stop thinking about that incident. I wonder if this type of behavior is pretty common on playgrounds. I also wonder if and how I—and the little girl’s mother—could have handled the situation better. I do feel bad that the girl got yelled at the way she did in front of everyone—she is really young, after all—but I also think she is old enough to know that bullying a baby and stealing other kids’ toys is not OK. I wanted to scold her, but I didn’t think it was my place to do so. After all, her mom was there, and I don’t know her mom. Shouldn’t her mom have been keeping a closer eye on her? And should she have come over to me to apologize for the way her daughter treated the baby? Should I have gone over to her to make nice and tell her there were no hard feelings? I have no idea. I do know that I am proud of my friend’s daughters for handling the situation with grace.
Also, how involved should I get in these situations as the boys get older? When they are 5 or 6, at what point would I get involved if another kid is being mean to them? I do feel that kids need to learn how to fight their own battles and not always have Mommy step in for them. But I also know that if I see Matt and Nate bullying another child, I sure as heck would not let them get away with it!
Ah, playground drama. Is this what I have to look forward to? I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this!