Giggle Giggle Toot Roar

Striving to answer the call to motherhood and wifeyhood with joy, Jesus, and crazy dancing.

Same Playground, Such Different Lives

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We’ve probably all experienced similar “fun” on the playground. Rowdy big kids plowing over smaller kids. Kids fighting over swings or their turn down the slide. Kids throwing rocks. Maybe it’s your kids that day clogging up the slide by running up instead of sliding down or jumping on the wobbly bridge to nearly knock little ones off just for kicks.

We have grown to just expect this stuff at the playground. Generally, there is a parent or guardian nearby eventually encouraging their little people to “take turns,” “let that little boy go next,” “stop eating sand,” “not walk in front of the swings,” or whatever it may be.

Same Playground, Such Different LivesI keep a pretty close watch on my little guys when we venture to the playground, but as they get older, I try not to hover! Playground play is a great way for them to learn how to interact with other children. I want them to be able to use the “taking turns” skills I’ve taught them. I want them to try to work out their playground problems by themselves. I want them to see and play with children of different ages, races, and sizes. I want them to explore and discover new secret spots beneath the bridges and slides. I want them to find bugs and pretend rocks are cupcakes and chicken nuggets!

Every once in a while however, you’ll have that playground experience that makes your blood boil! I had one last night.

The boys and I were enjoying the beautiful weather at a local park with several play areas. At the first playground we played for a few minutes in glorious solitude and then almost like they were craving other children to play with, they demanded we move on to the next playground that had three older kids using it. They were rowdy and throwing around a plastic bubble gum container that nearly hit us several times, but we were all unphased. The parents called out the occasional, “settle down” or “don’t hog the slide.” Nothing out of the ordinary here!

Our last stop was to the toddler playground. When we arrived, there were four little boys (ages 5 and younger) already there playing; their parents were nearby. I watched in awe as they flying squirrel-spider monkeyed it all around the playset. They were standing up on the steering wheels, climbing on top of the tunnel slides, walking across the top braces of the bridges, back and forth, climbing higher and higher and then back down again. Geesh, I’m exhausted just remembering it.

It became clear to me the moment we arrived, we were fresh bait and two of the kids came circling around us immediately. Picture me, a crazy Pac-man momma going from slide to slide to the stairs and back to the slides, everything we decided to do, the little spider monkey boy purposely raced in front of us to get there first and then wouldn’t move out of the way to give the boys a turn. He didn’t have shoes on, so he had really good grip and could really climb and move fast!

We gave up on the slides and they went up on the bridge instead. That’s when I met the five year old. I know he was five, because he told me. His exact words were, “I’m five, but my grandpa says when I’m 18 I can go in the alcohol and cigarette stores.”

Then he got really frustrated that his blue slushy drink was out of liquid and wanted me to take the cup and fix it for him. Again, I sent a stare to the parents; seriously, help your kid! He threw a tantrum that I wouldn’t take his cup and mustering up all the helpfulness I could, I told him, “Honey, you just have to shake it up or you might have to let it melt a little.”

Meanwhile, 3 year old ninja continued to nearly knock my kids off the bridge and block them from using anything on the playground. I could tell my boys were getting frustrated, but they were still playing it cool.

We went over to a smaller tunnel slide and my son got half way down when the little ninja climbed up the slide and tried to climb over my son to the top. My little guy was stuck in the middle with his leg bent back and I couldn’t get to him, he was screaming. I didn’t want to touch spider monkey, because let’s face it, you just don’t do that today and because his parents were right there… still doing nothing. I eventually got my little guy out and with authority, he and his brother raced to the other slide to try to get a turn. Nope. This time the little ninja actually just crawled over their bodies.

That was it. I calmly grabbed him under the arms and gently took him off my kids. Then, less calmly I said to the parents, “I’m sorry, but is this your kid?!”

They said no.

Me: “You’re kidding right?”

Them as they are leaving: “No, they aren’t our kids.”

Me a little worried that these young kids are unattended: “Well, where are their parents?”

Them pointing to an old man sitting what felt like a mile away, “Maybe him.”

Me: “No?”

Then I asked the 5 year old, “Where is your dad?”

He said, “I don’t have a dad.”

Me: “Where is your mom?”

Him: “She’s working. I might get a stepdad though if my mom gets married to Todd.”

Me pointing to the man sitting with his back to the playground a mile away: “Is that your grandpa?”

Him: “Yes.”

While we had this conversation, little ninja continued to harass my boys, so I finally just scooped them up and started walking to the car. The entire walk my boys were chanting, “Mommy, naughty boys don’t get ice cream.” I thanked them for being so patient and reminded them how it’s nice to share and take turns when we’re at the playground. When we got home and they got ice cream.

The experience was actually pretty blood boiling intense as you’d expect when strangers get aggressive with your kids!

I broke into tears though that night as I retold the story to my husband. The kids were nearly the same ages as our children. They were basically alone, unwatched, and uncared for at the playground. I don’t know the details of their lives, but I suspect they aren’t really “naughty boys,” they are just little boys that need more attention, affection, and direction.

The five year old’s words replayed in my head, “I don’t have a dad.” I cried again, why do some little boys grow up with the most amazing dad ever and other little boys don’t get one?

I remembered that little boy desperately begging for my help with his blue slushy; it felt like a desperate plea for attention or a kind, motherly moment.

Three and five year olds shouldn’t be worrying about cigarettes and alcohol; they shouldn’t be figuring out how to terrorize the next kids that show up on “their” playground.

We play on the same playground, but we live such different lives.

Please send up a prayer with me for our children; for the world’s children. Keep them safe Lord. Help them know you and guide their sweet little feet.

Love,

Natasha

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21 thoughts on “Same Playground, Such Different Lives

  1. Oye, my heart breaks for children these days. We live in a very safe community and I have no problem with children walking from their homes just 2 minutes away to play alone, as long as they are decent kids! What makes my blood boil is when they act like out of control monkeys and there is no one there to correct their behavior. Unfortunately, from what grandpa told him about being 18 and going to the alcohol and cigarette shop, the family doesn’t have it all together. That poor little boy 😦

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  2. I felt so annoyed for you and your kids, but then so sad for these little ruffians with no adult supervision. I always feel sad when I see kids trying to get involved with other parents, because theirs are nowhere in sight or completely disengaged. This was such a great post. Thanks for sharing at the Manic Mondays blog hop!

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    • Now that I think of it, I always have kids trying to engage with me on the playground! I bet you’re right, they just want attention! Love your blog hop!

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  3. I felt like I was reading an excerpt from a book and was really enjoying it. It was quite entertaining and then I began to feel in the moment with you and the frustration. As you tell the end of the story, tears began to form in my eyes. It is so sad to think how differently the lives of many children are. Sometimes we take for granted the little things. Found you over at Manic Mondays Blog Hop. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. What an important reminder….what we see on the surface of situations that make our blood boil is often so much deeper!

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  5. I have had similar experiences when at the playground. Young kids with parents so far away that need help or are acting inappropriately. It really is eye opening to children’s different experiences.

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  6. Awww that’s so sad he doesn’t have a dad, and I”m sure that explains the behavior. I hover too at the playground…whatever works right?!

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  7. Ahh! The playground issues, neverending I must say. And it is pretty terrifying from time to time as I fear my daughter might try to copy the behavior of the unruly kids. She imitates so much and is not even 3. So it gets hard to reason with her. I try my best, running after her in the park to make sure she behaves nicely with other kids and sometimes keeping my distance, letting her figure out a solution. But I always keep an eye on her.

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    • I get nervous they’ll pick up on not only behavior, but also language! Geesh, I wouldn’t even say some of the things I hear come out of some little mouths!

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  8. “Crazy Pac-man momma” haha this made me laugh! And I so agree! I try hard not to hover over my daughter, but it’s still hard because she’s only 16 months. But we’ve had a couple experiences at one of the bigger parks near us where she literally got knocked down by much bigger kids. It frustrated me that their parents were too busy with their faces stuffed in their phones to pay attention to their kids or remind them to be careful around the smaller kids. We usually don’t go to this particular park but the toddler friendly one was under construction for a solid month. Anyway, usually the park is a good experience, but sometimes one or two misbehaved children can ruin it.

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  9. I dislike going to certain playgrounds, I often see those parents that don’t give 2 cents about what their kids are doing. I raised my daughter to be polite, share, and be fair among other things. A lot of times there are these kids that don’t know how to play nicely with others. It makes me sad to see children like that.

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  10. It is really painful to share playground space with unruly, unsupervised kids. I actually feel sorry for the parents, too. Taking my preschooler to the park was such a pleasant activity for us. Both the kids and parents are missing out on making memories and learning from each other.

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  11. Wow. You handled it with a lot of grace. Those situations are heartbreaking. A good many of my little students when I was teaching came to my class like that. Did what I could to fill those gaps. The children of the world definitely need our love and prayers.

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