I tend to lean towards the left on most measures, and people have been known to refer to me as a raving liberal every now and then. But, unlike many of my liberal friends, I do not wonder how it is that so many people out there are self-absorbed. I do not shake my head at those who put themselves first. I do not ponder how it is that such large numbers of people seem to disregard the needs and rights of others, trampling over anyone in their path to get their way.
I do not wonder because I spend an awful lot of time at playgrounds, so I have seen where it all begins.
I have seen seven-year-olds climb the wrong way up the slide, then slide back down, then climb the wrong way up again, all while a line of two- and three-year-olds wait their turn at the top. Their parents do not intervene, and why should they? These are probably the same parents I see teaching their children to climb up the slide rather than the steps when they are babies. All the while, I am repeating like a moron to my children, “Up the steps and down the slide,” while they look at me and wonder why their idiotic mother cannot see that everyone else is going up whatever way they please, as long as they are big enough to have the right of way.
I have seen children twice Zachary’s size shove him aside at the top of the slide. It was with great pride that I finally watched him shove back and assert his turn. I have taught him to be understanding if a smaller child is taking her time or pushes past him, but I am pleased to see he is finally not letting the bigger kids take advantage of him. Of course, he has no chance of really winning, because they just shove him harder while their parents sit idly by.
I have seen three little girls come along and use the rope ladder to come down the wall, even though Zach and another child were patiently waiting in line to go up. I have seen a child use our shovel, then drop it to climb to the top of the climbing frame, where he pushed my son for absolutely no reason at all. When I picked up the shovel and gathered the children to go home, he looked at me and said, “I was using that shovel.”
“It is our shovel,” I responded.
“But I was using it.”
And so I flat out told the little shit, “But it is our shovel and you just shoved my kid and we are going home.” Perhaps his caregiver could have pointed this out, had there been one anywhere around.
I have also seen older children take my kids by the hand, help them do things they cannot do, and soothe them when they hurt themselves. And I have made a point of thanking them, telling my children to thank them, and complimenting them to their parents.
I have seen my own children push other children, throw sand at them, drop toys down the slide, and snatch toys. And you know what? I have disciplined them EVERY SINGLE TIME. Discipline is not a naughty word, and it is not about hitting or screaming. Discipline is about teaching limits. Whenever I say, “no throwing sand!” I am disciplining. Whenever I say, “If you want to put that truck down the slide, you need to be holding onto it, because you could hurt someone,” I am disciplining.
So, if you are one of those parents who is so fucking liberal that you are appalled at the idea of using the word “no” (and yes, there are parents who make a point of never using such a word), if you are a parent who thinks time-outs are stifling a child’s spirit or somesuch shit, if you are a parent who thinks that enforcing turns and rules will destroy your child’s creativity, hurrah for you. Just keep your kids the hell away from the playground.