Recently, my husband and I took our daughter Olivia to Central Park. It wasn’t our first time, but I was particularly excited because it was a warm day, and we were headed to the playground for the first time. I remember being a bit nervous upon walking inside the gated playground. As much as I wanted her to run around and explore, I wanted to protect her and make sure she didn’t hurt herself. But more importantly, it was one of our “firsts,” so I was having an exciting mommy moment.
I glanced around the playground and tried to find a safe zone. The slide? Maybe the jungle gym? I decided on my own childhood favorite, the swings. We headed over to what seemed like an empty swing, but were stopped by a 5 year old who proclaimed that it was HIS swing. It was a baby swing. You know, the ones that have a harness and are for younger children. (He clearly didn’t fit inside of the swing.)
I said, “OK,” as I looked around for the boy’s mother, hoping she would see the teachable moment that had presented itself and show him how to share. She was on the phone and made no sign of coming over to her son, so we headed over to the jungle gym.
There were a bunch of kids there, and I figured it would be fun to “socialize” Olivia. (Yes, just like we did with our dog when she was a puppy.) Her smile was so big as she looked at the other kids and tried to play with them. This playground stuff was fun.
I brought her to the steering wheels of the pretend “boat” on the jungle gym since no one was there. She tried turning the wheel and turned to me and laughed as we steered it together. Then, out of nowhere, a little boy (well, he was a “big kid” at about 6 years old) pushed my daughter out of the way and made it known that this was HIS ship, and he was playing there first. I was appalled. I looked around for a sign of his parent but got nothing.
My next and final attempt at enjoying our park day was on the slides. A few little girls were going down the slides, so Olivia and I waited until it was her turn. Again, the excitement in her eyes was priceless. I helped her down the slide, she giggled, and just as I was about to pick her up, another little girl slammed into her and pushed her off the slide with her feet.
I’ll pause for reaction.
I grabbed Olivia and told the little girl that it was not OK to kick other children.
“She was in my way!” she responded. Again, no mom or dad in sight.
What hurt me most about that day wasn’t the rudeness of the kids but the fact that what happened is just a small example of what’s happening with the majority of kids today. When I tell friends this story their reaction is, “Oh, yeah, we get that a lot.” With all due respect to my friends, when did this behavior become acceptable? When did parents start becoming such pushovers? Trying to teach your own kid manners and how to interact politely with other people is extremely difficult when other children are not being taught the same. Or worse, their parents are too “busy” to even care.
Angelica Sereda is a working mother and freelance writer. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and 15-month-old daughter, Olivia.
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