Last Sunday a familiar scene unfolded at the playground: my daughter was playing and some kid tried to get her to relinquish some object so that s/he could play. And each time I am caught in a dilemma--do I tell the kid to scram or do I teach my daughter to play nice?
The short answer is that it depends on the circumstances. In some cases when my daughter takes a toy from another child, I intervene to encourage her to either return the item or to share. In other cases when toys are taken from my daughter, I might let her retrieve the toy or I redirect her to another item. I do this because it is my nature to avoid conflict, and based on my observations of playground behavior by not just the other children, but also the parents. Let me share a few scenarios to better illustrate my point:
- The Toddlersaurus sees the see saw. Other children are playing, and she jumps on, which makes sense because the very nature of playing on a see saw is playing with other children. But then some kid begins to complain that she needs to move out of the way. This is a common occurrence for us, and was essentially the scenario on Sunday, except her older cousin was there, so we shall revisit this a little later. *
- The playground where we go once a week is kind of a graveyard for discarded toys, which means there is always a tricycle, wagon, or other push/pull toy of some kind that the children can all play with. There are always new toys each week and it is hard to say when the old ones are finally trashed (or by whom). There is no particular rhyme or reason for which toy she will obsess over, but invariably, it will be the same toy that some other kid wants and I typically have to step in to play King Solomon.
- On those rare occasions when the toys are all gone, the kids are left with the stationary playground equipment such as the sliding board, the aforementioned see saw, and a climbing station. On several occasions, my daughter has been told by another child that she must vacate use because "we were here first" or "we don't want to play with you."
- Not at the playground, but maybe in some other generic play space or area with other children, my daughter often attempts to play with other children and is routinely rebuffed. As in some child either goes crying to his/her nanny or some child will act as a physical barrier to prevent my daughter from joining the group.
I used to think that I was being over-sensitive until the Hub witnessed the third scenario, and this past weekend when my Niece witnessed scenario first. And before you pose a series of obvious questions, let me interject with a quick story about how my daughter's front tooth got chipped at a public splash area. She was playing with another girl who was about a year older, and who was there with her mother and older brothers. Somehow, this kid ends up swinging a plastic racket and pops my kid in the mouth...
Thus, after the trauma of that splash park experience, I determined that certain play spaces were "safer" for my daughter. My definition of safe is to have her play in places where there is less of a likelihood that she will be physically harmed because: (a) it is a contained playground; (b) where I can see everyone; and (c) that has plenty of adult supervision per child. We have not ventured back to a public splash park yet for primarily those reasons. However, I wonder if I should just be less risk averse instead of nursing my feelings after each one of these micro-aggressive experiences.