He loved it. He did really well climbing up and then sliding straight down. He wasn't slow and he never just stopped and caused a traffic jam. He wasn't annoying any other kids. But then it happened...a big girl (definitely too big to be playing in there) glared at him as he crawled up the steps and said "you aren't supposed to have shoes on" in a hateful voice. He wasn't the only one with shoes on, but it is standard procedure to take shoes off in there...I just was so mad at how hateful she was to a toddler! It wasn't like he was kicking her with his shoes or bothering her in any way. He, of course, had no idea that she was being mean and just smiled at her and kept climbing. But that won't always be the case.
On his next trip up, a kid pushed him down the slide. Again Paxton didn't get that it was hateful and just kept playing. The final straw was the kid that deliberately kicked Paxton in the head as he had stopped to smile at me. Paxton burst into tears and immediately had a bump on his forehead. The kid just stood there watching Paxton cry with no emotion.
I don't get it. Why are kids so mean in these playscapes? Why is it a place where they feel ok about pushing littler kids and saying hateful things? As I watched, Paxton wasn't the only victim of things like this, and I don't understand it. Where are their parents? I know the mother of the child who was straddling the slide at the bottom and jumping down trying to smash kids' fingers or heads or whatever he could reach was sitting three feet away from the slide. She never even looked up at him. I'm glad that Paxton is too little to understand that these kids are being mean to him (and to model their behavior), but it still breaks my heart to see kids be hateful to him. I hate the thought of him losing his innocence and trust and feeling of safety at the hands (or feet) of some 10-year-old boy with an anger issue. It makes me worry about recess when he gets to school, about going to play at another kid's house, about all of the future teasing and name-calling and hitting he will have to deal with. He's just such a sweet little boy, and I want to protect him from mean kids...but things like this show me that I won't be able to.
All I can do is to make sure he feels totally loved at home. I can build up his self-esteem so that when things like this happen, he can let it bounce off. And most of all, I will make sure that he is NEVER the mean kid.
Sometimes people are mean. Sometimes they get annoyed with people who are smaller or slower or just different than they are. Sometimes that might be you. Brush it off. You are perfect. You are sweet and smart and you can run fast. You make me proud every single day. They don't know you so don't let what they say hurt you. Daddy and I know you. Your grandparents know you. Your aunts and uncles know you. Listen to them about how wonderful you are. Don't worry about what other kids think. Take your time on the slide as long as you aren't in anyone's way.
Even more importantly: be nice. Don't ever be the kid that makes someone cry with a hateful comment. Don't ever be the kid who kicks a littler kid in the head. Be the kid that runs over to the hurt kid to make sure they're ok. Be the kid helping the smaller kids down the slide because you were that little once too. Be the kid who smiles at the little kid who looks uncertain. That will make me prouder of you than anything else.
I love you,
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