Navigating the Playground

Mae is 2.5 years old. She finally wants to interact with other kids at the playground. Sometimes this results in wonderful, fast friendships. Sometimes kids just ignore her. Fair enough. I try my very best not to interfere with these exchanges and let her navigate, but I stay within ear shot and I watch her. I try to skirt that fine line between being a responsible parent and hovering over her.

This week, we’ve had two instances at the playground that have really caused me to pause, and I wonder is that just what we’re in for now that Mae is interacting with other kids. This shit is hard.

Earlier this week, we were at Womble Park, and a boy, about 4 or 5, followed Mae around the playground and tried to block her on whatever she’d climb to next. She seemed obliviously and would just say “excuse me” and make her way past him. I didn’t interject here. She was handling it just fine. But he did this for 15 minutes or so. Where was the parent? She talked on her phone for the entire hour we were at the playground. Yes, let your kid play, but please watch out for your kid being an asshole.

Today, when Mae paused to watch what a boy was doing (he was burying sticks in the mulch), he looked up and said, “I’m gonna shoot you and kill you.” This boy could not have been older than 3. His mother and grandparents were sitting too far away to hear him. Mae was visibly upset. I said something lame to the boy like “That’s not very nice at all.” I was too shocked to come up with much else. Then I told Mae we could choose to play in a different area, which is what she decided to do. The parents could see this interaction, even if they couldn’t hear it. They did nothing.

mae-swinging

And she just wants to try and touch the sky.

I know I can’t protect her from the world, and that living in the world means dealing with conflict and pain and meanness, but damn it, this feels too soon. I’m not ready. On the way home, I just told her I was proud that she had remained calm and kind, but is that enough? I felt like I should be teaching her to also assert herself, to say that kind of talk wasn’t acceptable. I guess I kind of did by speaking to the boy myself? This parenting stuff is getting so complicated. How do you navigate the playground?

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