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I (don’t) Spy

August 15, 2012

ImageThere’s something about driving into a parking lot full of cars and a playground full of kids that makes me want to keep driving. I told the boy we were going to a new playground though so I parked and we had lunch on a picnic table. I secretly hoped the crowd would thin since it was lunchtime, but it didnt.

What I noticed were the mothers in groups of 2 or more surrounding the perimeter of the playground about half the size of a football field. There were 2 sets of playground equipment for different ages, swings on both sides and a few other odd pieces. I’m not the type of mom to let my kid go into the midst of a kid crowd and equipment without me nearby. I was one of about 4 parents within the kid crowd watching our children. The only men there were with their children.

I pointed out a tunnel T (my son) could go through. A girl crawled in behind him. She asked if T would be her friend. She was a couple of years older than T. So, T followed the girl playing on different things with her. At some point, when I was talking to my son privately away from the playground, there were some boys who went to the older equipment and started playing with the girl. They were loud. People think T can scream, these boys could shreik. T wasn’t sure about going on the set, but he wanted to play with the girl. He walked cautiously across the bridge that was at my eye level. The boys were yelling, a few had sticks. T stood with the girl as the boys yelled, but they started getting louder and closer to them. The boys then started jumping and yelling in their faces. T turned calling for me as he scurried back over the bridge to some stairs where I was waiting and gathered him in my arms where he burried his head in my shoulder. I knew he was frightened. He does not like loud noises so the combo was too much. The girl had run across the bridge as well, but stopped when the boys didn’t follow. T was wanting to play with her again, but she was walking towards the boys. T asked if she wanted to play at the other equipment. She said the boys were being mean. I said that we could just go to the other one. She wouldn’t, she said the boys were trying to kill a butterfly. That’s one tough girl to stay in that mean crowd of boys to try and save a butterfly. She even followed them to the other set. T was still in my arms, but wanting to play.

Something similar happened right before we left. T saw the boys coming over the bridge so he quickly went down the nearest slide and into my arms. The boys were being loud and rough. I was watching carefully, but didn’t say anything mostly because I was watching the girl and how she was handling the boys. It was like watching an older girl enjoying the attention, but not sure what to do with it. Anyway, someone must have stuck a stick near someone’s face when I heard the mom of the girl come over and start telling the boys to not touch people with sticks. I felt bad because I had been watching and missed it, but also because I’m new to this stage in my son’s life. When and what do I say to another person’s child? What if I find their behavior unacceptable and the parent does not?

Did you see something missing from most of these stories? Moms, why in the world would you not be watching your children on that big of a playground with that many children and people walking by? Maybe I’ve heard too much about Safe Sanctuaries or maybe I’m paranoid from all the news stories I hear about children being kidnapped or sexually abused. As tired as I am and as tempting as it might be just to take a seat while T plays, I can’t and won’t do it. Maybe I’m just not in the playgroup clique. Maybe we were the new ones there and everyone else knew each other. Or maybe there is a false sense of security because of our location.

I may not go back there. It’s enough to watch my own child, but I feel some sort of responsibility for the others if only to make sure my son is safe. Plus, I’m not the most tactful person so interrupting a group of mothers for a nice chat with the mother of an unruly child probably wouldn’t go well.

Am I wrong or being overprotective?

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