Let me preface this post by sharing two things/disclaimers:
1. I am stickler for playground safety. When I was 6, I fell off the monkey bars (I was hanging upside down -- not following the rules!) and broke my collar bone. It was awfully painful, but the worst part was that I had to have inside recess for a month! I've seen waaaaay too many kids sent to the hospital with broken bones or concussions from getting hurt on the playground. Even with careful supervision, accidents happen left and right and they can be quite scary!
2. I have zero tolerance for bullying. That's probably an obvious thing to say (I mean, who stands up *for* bullying?), but I really believe that any time bullying goes unnoticed or unaddressed, the bully gains more power and it perpetuates the cycle.
Did you totally hear the teacher in me in those two points? I did. ;)
Like most three year-olds, Choi Boy loves going to the playground. And I love going with him. We have lots of fun playing, pretending, exploring, and trying out the different playground structures and equipment. Being at the playground together is something we both enjoy and it's one of times where I love playing with CB (admittedly, playing trains doesn't excite me as much as it does CB). I will admit that there are times when I send a quick text or stop to Instagram a photo of CB playing, but for the most part, we play on the playground together -- I climb with him when I can, and when I can't, I make sure I'm right next to him to spot him or help him if he needs help. If we meet up with friends at the playground, it's no different -- the kids might play together, but the parents make sure we still follow the kids around. (In a lot of ways, this actually makes it stressful to be at the playground with friends -- we just end up chasing our own kiddos around the playground because they often don't play together!)
Things will probably change as CB grows older, but it will be quite a while until I feel that he is able to play on the playground unsupervised. This is the one area where I will admit to being a bit of helicopter parent. In other settings and during other times, I highly encourage independent play, exploration, and problem-solving, but when CB's direct safety on structures that are often more than twice his height is concerned, you can bet I'll be there hovering!
This is why it really irks me when parents don't properly supervise their children on the playground. Especially when the children are young, like 7 years-old (2nd grade) or younger. (And don't even get me started on mall playgrounds or fast food restaurant playgrounds! My parents own a quick-service restaurant and they have had to call the police more than once because parents have dropped their young children off at the playground and left the restaurant for over an hour! Crazypants. But that's for a different post...) More than a few times, I've helped a fallen child get back up while her parent was sitting on a bench unaware that her child had gotten hurt. More than a few times, I've told a child that the stunt they were about to try probably wasn't a good idea (walking on top of the play structure as if it were a tightrope, for example). And just a few weeks ago, I took my crazy playground mom self to a whole new level when I reprimanded someone else's child.
Again, I have zero tolerance for bullying. There are times when yes, I should probably stay out of it, but in a lot of ways, I feel that it is my duty as a parent, as a teacher, as a citizen to say something when I see it. Especially when it involves young children. This particular incident did involve young children, CB being one of them. While at the playground, CB found some other three(ish) year-old kids to play with and they were having a grand old time together playing "store" under one of the bigger structures. I stood just outside of their little gathering where I could still keep an eye and ear on things. Another one of the kid's parents also stood nearby and we smiled at each other when the kids said or did something that was particularly cute or funny. One of the little boys CB was playing with had come to the playground with an older boy who was maybe 6 years-old. Their moms were on the other side of the playground with a baby in a stroller, chatting.
The older boy, who was riding his bike on the playground, started throwing mulch at his little friend, taunting him about something. He probably just wanted to be included, but took to mulch throwing instead. The younger boy asked him to stop several times, but the older boy kept laughing and throwing. Soon he started to throw mulch at all of the younger kids and they all asked him to stop. When he wouldn't stop (and I made sure to wait until after the kids had asked him to stop because at that point it was clear that they didn't like it), I looked at him, made eye contact, and told him, "They have asked you to stop. It is unsafe for you to throw mulch and they don't like it. You need to stop." He looked a little startled and took off on his bike. He didn't come back, and instead hung around his mom until they left.
Who knows what his mom would have said or done if she had seen me talk sternly to her child... and perhaps the kid even told his mom about the crazy lady that yelled at him. But you know what? I don't feel any remorse for doing what I did. And I hope if he did tell his mom, she would have said to him, "Well, you shouldn't have been throwing mulch! You know better than that!" Because that's what I would have said. Because if I wasn't keeping tabs on Choi Boy at the playground (or in any other setting, for that matter), and he did something that was unsafe or mean or unkind, I would want someone to say something to him. Because I want CB to know that even I don't hear it or see it, he is still accountable for his actions. If I'm honest, I know there probably will come a day when I won't be watching and CB will do something that is less than desirable or he will get hurt. And when that happens, I do hope there is another crazy playground mom around who will say something to help correct his behavior or help him up.
How about you? How would you have responded to that situation? Are you a crazy playground parent?