Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Making enemies on the playground

I haven't blogged in forever, and I think I probably should have. This summer has been the worst of my life and it might have helped me to blog about it and get these feelings and depression out instead of staying at home and crying or moping about it. I have never felt so assaulted by the heat before. It was awful, and it's not over yet. The high for today is 99. It's late September, for fuck's sake! The weather forecasters say that it'll cool down a little before heating back up, and on average the highs are in the 90's until mid October. It's enough to make a cool-weather lover like me crawl under the bed and hide until Samhain.

I've been so preoccupied about the heat that I completely forgot about Mabon until it was here. So, happy Mabon everyone! I hope that the seeds of projects you planted earlier in the year are coming to fruition and that you're reaping what you've sown. I know I am. I neglected my garden and all the plants in my yard once the real heat hit, and now they're all dead. It was just too depressing to go outside. More than 5 minutes in the heat effected me profoundly throughout the day, causing me to be depressed, moody, easily irritated and I think it sucked out all my energy, too. So, it was easier to just let the lawn and plants die than make my family suffer through a summer of me at my worst everyday.

So, on to the topic of my blog: the indoor playground. The only way I've been able to survive this summer with an energetic two year old has been to unleash him at Chandler mall's playground at least twice a week (five days a week at times) to run, jump, play and be social while mommy sits on the sidelines sipping an iced tall decaf mocha with whole milk, light ice and an extra pump of Mocha syrup. Yes, I'm picky.

Anyway, the mall playground rules are simple. Parents can't drop their kids off and leave them there while they shop. They have to be supervised. Kids taller than 42 inches (the height of the surrounding wall) are not allowed to play there unless they're helping a smaller child or an infant on the equipment. No food or drinks in the play area (I take this to mean that the kids can eat or drink at the benches against the wall, but not on the playground equipment or in the play area.) Those are pretty simple rules, right? I thought so. I guess some moms think otherwise. I've become the bitch of the playground. I call security constantly to kick out kids who are too big or too rough. I talk to parents about their rowdy, bratty kids who are pushing, shoving, hitting or kicking. I even follow my son around the play area when it's really full to make sure he's not getting picked on. Last week, I watched a little boy about the same age as my son hitting other kids in the face as he ran by. He pushed another kid off the slide and down the stairs. I took him to his mom, who didn't speak English. She quietly told him not to hit (I understand at least that much Spanish) and he turned away from her, hitting another kid in the face as he ran off. Yeah, I had security kick them out.

The worst experience I've ever had on the playground was today, though. Let me preface this by saying that I've met this mom before. She and I had a long, happy conversation about two weeks ago. She said this little girl was her 4th child, and by far her most difficult. The mom was very nice, and I assumed that the little girl who looked like her and was playing near her was hers. I couldn't understand how this sweet little girl could be a problem. She didn't seem to be the selfish, demanding, pushy child that the mom was talking about. Then, when they got up to leave, I saw where I went wrong. That wasn't her child. The brat, pushing kids off the slide and hitting while hogging all the best playground equipment was hers. She hadn't been paying attention to her at all. The entire time we were there she hadn't gotten up to intervene when her kid (who she seemed to understand was a brat) picked on another child. I was appalled. To make it worse, I saw this mom a few more times since then. She and her horrible daughter are becoming more frequent attendees of the play area.

Anyway, another interesting facet of this story is that my son loves little girls. He will go out of his way to seek out a little girl to play with on the playground. He does this every time we go. I asked my pediatrician about it, and she suggested that it's because he's small for his age, and very verbal. If he wants to talk and not get pushed around, he's better off playing with a little girl than a little boy. Fair enough.

So, today I took my son to the playground early, along with another little boy I was babysitting. They played together on the deserted playground for almost half an hour before any other kids showed up. My son even pointed around saying, "No kids?" when we first got there. I felt bad for him, but the other kids started showing up soon after. After about 45 minutes, there were 5 other kids. Two were little babies, two were rambunctious boys, and then there was the bratty little girl. Her mom parked herself in the corner and sat texting and ignored her daughter. Meanwhile, my son beelined it for the only little girl on the playground, and was promptly pushed over. He persisted, and she shoved him a couple more times. Then, she sat at the top of the slide and prevented anyone from going on it. I had had it by this point. I had tried to gently tell her to stop pushing and shoving and let other kids on the slide. So, I got up in her face and whispered menacingly through my teeth, "Move. Now."
She moved. She ran crying to mommy. I told her mom that she was upset because I wouldn't let her stand at the top of the slide and prevent anyone else from going down. I didn't really feel the need to elaborate... Anyway, the next hour was really uncomfortable. That mom shadowed her daughter on the playground (paying more attention to her daughter and her daughter's actions than I'd ever seen before) and shooting me dirty looks every time we passed each other. Sigh.

It's like I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't. I refuse to let my son be bullied on the playground, and I won't let this mom allow her daughter to be the playground brat. Maybe I actually helped her, in a way. Maybe now this mom will pay more attention to her daughter and curb her bad behavior, at least while I'm there. I can hope.

In the meantime, I might have to go to a different indoor playground. I do feel bad for scaring the crap out of a three year old, and for making my criticisms of her mother's parenting so obvious. At least it's cooling down and I can use a real playground soon.