Saturday, September 13, 2008

Showdown at the Park (or, Don't Mess with Mama C. and Her Cubs!)

Yesterday marked the first full week of back-to-school for my oldest two, and we all mustered through the earlier mornings and the longer days relatively unscathed, albeit a bit more weary.

I quickly adapted a new routine, especially formulated with my little one in mind (so she wouldn't feel quite so abandoned by her ever-present brother and sister, who were pretty much at her beck and call all summer long). After she and I go to R's school to drop her off in the mornings, S. and I head off to the park, where I find a sunny spot and read for about an hour, while she plays with all of her newly-made toddler friends. I get to enrich my mind and sprout some new neurons, and she gets to blow off some steam. It's a win-win.

After the morning park visit, we're either off together to do whatever necessary errands there might be, or we come home so I can take care of stuff here. Then, in the afternoons, we head up to R's school again, where S. hangs out in the little park (located right in front of the school building) to play, until it's time to go wait at the front door for R. to emerge from the mass exodus of children. Then, it's back to the "big park" across the street for a few hours more of play.

Since the afternoons are a lot busier, both with children and parents, sometimes my book reading gets pushed aside. I have to keep a sharper eye on my kids, constantly navigating my view so I can keep them within eyeshot.

Since last Wednesday was a beautiful fall day, we followed this routine exactly, and wound up at the big park so the girls could play. As luck would have it, a gaggle of R's girlfriends were playing at the park, too, so not only did she have a small group of friends to pal around with, but so did S. (they all "mother hen" this child to death, and she eats it up with a spoon! :).

I waited for a spot on THE prime bench to open up. This particular bench is located on the "fifty yard line" of the park, so no matter which structure the kids ran to, I can always locate them pretty easily. When a seat became vacant, I plopped my keester down, and looked forward to continuing on with the book I've become very much interested in ("A Redbird Christmas" by Fannie Flagg, for those who might be wondering).

I was happily engrossed in my book, stopping from time to time to scope out my children. Once I had them in my direct line of vision, I'd continue reading. The kids were blissfully chasing after each other; there were four or five 9-year-old girls, two 9-year-old boys, and one 3-year-old runt... all playing happily together. A small slice of Heaven.

Just when I thought we were having ourselves a pleasant afternoon, I spotted one of the mothers walking towards R. The troop was hanging out in the middle of one of the smaller structures, laughing and singing and having a grand old time, and by the time this mother finished her speech (which, from my angle, looked as if it was directed RIGHT at my daughter), there was a deathly silence in the group of once jovial kids.

I immediately removed myself from my prime spot (a Herculean task at best -- once you relinquish this seat, you know that it might never be re-claimed), and walked over to my daughter to see what that particular fuss was about. I called R. over to me, and looked at her with shock and dismay as she relayed the encounter. Apparently, this particular mom didn't like the fact that the girls were screaming, and she went over to ask them all to stop. Are you kidding me????? We were in a freakin' PARK!!!

I was just about to walk over to this clearly demented mom, when she saved me the trouble by heading towards R. and me. I thought for sure my daughter must not have heard her right, and I was determined to get to the bottom of this.

But, come to find out, my daughter's hearing was as perfect as ever, for that's EXACTLY what this woman told the girls! She further explained that it looked to her as if the boys were antagonizing the girls, and that's why the girls were screaming, so she asked them all to cut down on the noise and to leave each other alone. She felt that "girls should play with girls, and boys with boys".

Well.... I probably don't have to tell you what transpired next.

But I will. :)

After the smoke stopped pouring out of my ears, I turned to her and said:

"My daughter has been going to this school since she was in Kindergarten. My son, who entered his freshman year in high school last week, went here before her. I have NEVER encountered such a shallow-minded, prejudiced woman in my life here at this school as I have with you today.

"My children have been brought up to believe that friends are friends... no matter who they are, what they look like, or what race, color, or SEX they are. Until now, it appeared to me as if all of the other children, and their parents, followed the same principle.

"To me, it looked as if the kids were playing tag, or some similar game, together. At the very least, they were having FUN. Not only is it completely ridiculous of you to suggest it, but it also defeats the purpose of being here when you ask the kids to stop screaming. I don't know what your intentions are for being here -- maybe they're to perpetuate more of the stupid gossip that goes on with the clique-y little 'coffee clutch' of moms that are an unfortunate side-effect of this institution -- but my purpose for having my children here is to allow them to blow off steam so that they're not screaming in my HOUSE."

"If you're so close-minded to think that boys should only play with boys, and they should leave the girls alone, I would firmly suggest that you speak with your SON about the situation, and remove him from the group. I also ask that you never, EVER speak to my daughter like that again. If she's got any sort of 'problem', here or ANYWHERE, whichever family member is with her at the time is the ONLY one with the authority to walk up to her and correct it."

And, with that, I told my daughter to go back to her friends and play.

After the woman picked her chin up off of the floor, she started backpedaling a bit. She introduced herself to me ("Trish"... like I really wanted to get to know her at that point!), and said that she used to work as a lunch lady at another school (poor kids!), and that she got pretty good at seeing when a situation was developing into something that might be threatening to one of the children, and she was just afraid that their screaming might escalate into something more serious, and....

I put my hand up to stop her.

"Trish," I said, trying to sound as calm as humanly possibly (although at this point I wanted to pop her one right between the eyes), "How many children do you have?" (knowing full well the answer before I even asked the question). She answered, "Well, Mark is my only child, but I also have a 22-year-old stepdaughter."

"So, you basically only have ONE child, right?" She nodded in agreement. "Well, then, I hate to say this, Trish, but one child just doesn't count. You aren't fully schooled in the subtle nuances of play between children. And, trust me when I tell you, they were just PLAYING.

"You see that bench over there?" We looked over, and of course, my prime spot had been scooped by some little kid, no less. Damn. "THAT'S where I was, and as you can clearly see, it's within direct eyeshot of the children and where they were playing. As the mom of THREE, if I had caught even a glimpse of wrongdoing, I'd have been over there like a shot to find out what the problem was. But, there was no problem, except for the one YOU created. You just need to figure out how to chill and let your child play, because if you don't, he's going to wind up being very lonely, and you're going to have a miserable little boy on your hands. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and try to find another good spot to watch my children, and maybe squeeze in another chapter or two of my book before we have to go home."

She went back to her bench, which was co-occupied by a friend of hers, who seemingly left once "Trish" started her tirade, and I gave the kid who stole my seat the hairy eyeball until he got up and bounded off.

I sat back down, pulled "Redbird Christmas" out of my pocket, and went back to Alabama, while I listened to the wonderful sounds of my two girls.... who went back to screaming their fool heads off. A small slice of Heaven, I tell ya.


Karyn said...

I knew someone who believed boys should only should play with boys and girls with girls after the age of 10... always wondered how they had fun. I remember her calling her son back to the house when he was playing hide and seek with us and his sisters and she told him he's not to play with girls.

Coastalgranny said...

I KNOW I'd love to spend time with you! I LOVE a Mama Bear! It's what I do best - even now. I just about flew to Utah last weekend because I was THAT concerned about one of my kids. I wish I could tell you it gets easier as they get older, but it only gets less frequent. The defense mechanism remains intact.

I just learned the difference some time for me can make this week. Thanks for the suggestion. I was rather burned out and after an exceptionally tiring day with my mom, the next morning I just did NOT want to go downstairs. So I didn't. We have a mini-kitchen up here and I just snacked on what we had and played one of my old computer games (YEA!) until time to go to work. It was WONDERFUL. I went to work without a headache.

I decided that once a week I need to have a day off from THIS job too. A friend of mine is talking about starting a book club, which I would love. I also think I need to start exercising. My "big" heart doesn't NOT need to be matched by my belly and tush! I'm thinking about going to Curves...

Thanks for the note. We'll hang in there together - apart? You know what I mean!! Hey - are you near Maryland? My son is working there for a few weeks. Whole other world from Utah...I asked how he was doing and his comment was "Well, I haven't been shot yet." Thanks. My mother's worry genes needed that. Maybe I need to fly to Maryland....HA

Final score:Boys 5 Girls 0 said...

WOW! The nerve of that Trish...what a wench! I can not stand it when people jump in like that and act like they saw everything and know the full scoop...and one child...yep..she's a hot one to talk! I would stay as far away from her and her kid any other time you run into them...hopefully you will not though! I am proud of you though...Your kids will remember you standing up for them!!

Reddirt Woman said...

WooooHooo... You go girl!! I can't stand it when someone sticks their nose in when they can't take care of their own business (or kid). I totally don't know if I would have been as calm as you. I've never been too good at biting my tongue until I calm down. It's one of those things that I've fought with myself about for 50+ years. You did good mom!


Robin L Greenslade said...

Okay ~ so that woman and I would have gone a few rounds.

1) she had NO right what so ever to approach other children and reprimand them.

You want to reprimand my child, then come and get me and speak to my child in front of me.

2) the PARK is the PERFECT place for running, jumping, screaming, laughing, acting like a wild banshee or any other "acting" out which uses loud voices and lots of energy.

The reason parks are happy places is because they are filled with the laughter and happiness of children hard at work being CHILDREN.

You want peace? GO home? You want quiet? Go to the library.

3) BOYS will be BOYS and GIRLS will be GIRLS and they will cross gender lines and be CHILDREN.

If you do not allow your children to play naturally with others they become scared, prejudiced, shallow minded adults with no sense of reality.

My daughter played dolls, dabbled in my make up and loved to play dress up. She also could make mud pies, shoot hoops, pick up insects and use a hammer.

Her favorite "quiet time with Daddy" was spent in the garage building slot cars to race at the slot car track. My girl knows how to use power tools. And she can bake cookies and make a turkey dinner from scratch.