It was also, I soon realized, a little microcosm of the world. The people are smaller, but the emotions can still run high.
One day, my then 1-year-old son was happily playing with a toy and I was happily chatting to a friend at the playground, when another mom with a little boy arrived. This boy was about three. He walked into the room and made a beeline for my son and the toy he was playing with. The new boy (older and bigger) started to try to bully my son into giving him this toy, which involved some pushing and shoving.
The boy’s mom had an interesting reaction. At first she suggested they “take turns,” something I felt was not an appropriate suggestion for this situation. Then, as her son became increasingly aggressive, she started to ask him, “What’s going one? Why are you acting like this?” (My honest reaction: I didn’t give a damn WHY he was acting like that. I thought she should tell him to STOP acting like that.)
Luckily, another mom nearby diffused the tension by saying, “He’s acting like that because he is three.” Those two moms went on to discuss the social habits of three year olds, while I swooped into to pick up my child and left in a huff. Then I burst into tears in the car on the way home.
Fast forward several years, and my daughter and I are at another playground at the mall. Another three year old was acting like, well, a three year old, this time by kicking and shouting at any little kid who tried to climb on the same thing she was on.
I called my (older and much larger) daughter away, simply because I knew that she could not understand why this child was acting this way. In her world of junior Kindergarten, these things are simply not allowed. Sharing comes with the territory. Kicking someone else is a ticket straight to the time out chair.
I didn’t leave in a huff and cry in my car. The difference is now I’ve had a lot more experience, both with three year olds and with playground politics.
I did talk to my daughter and explain that the other child was making poor choices and suggest she play somewhere else. I explained that she did not have to play with someone or near someone who wasn’t being nice to her.
I may or may not have said these words loud enough for the girl’s mom, who was chatting away on her phone, to overhear.
Eh. I’m a work in progress.