Every challenge makes us stronger in character!
By: Amy E
(this is not the playground we experienced this story at.)
Recently, I took the Tiny One to a playground on the Cape. There were lots of kids playing and a little baseball game going on with parents watching and cheering on their kids! It was so beautiful out! The playground we went to had a big playground for older more advanced kids as well as a smaller, more toddler
friendly playground. As I saw down on the bench near the smaller playground, I watched as my Tiny Man walked on over to this super cool structure. I noticed a few bigger boys on the smaller playground and watched one of them studying my son very intently as he ambled on over. As a former elementary school teacher, I can read kids pretty well and my heart sank in my chest because I could tell by this other child’s body language
what was about to happen and I knew that I would have to let it just play out in front of me.
This older boy, let’s call him: Alan (definitely not this child’s name but for the sake of making this easier to read we will give him a name). Alan was standing at the top of the stairs of the play structure, his arms were on his hips, and his eyes narrowed at the approaching Tiny One. As my fearless little man began to climb up, Alan’s eyes narrowed even more. When the Tiny One had reached the top he was blocked by Alan.
My heart sank even lower in my chest, but I still sat perfectly still and calm. The Tiny One told Alan, “Please move, I’d like to play.” Alan vehemently shook his said and screamed: “NO!!!!”. I looked around, where was this boy’s mother????? Nowhere to be found at this point! The Tiny One asked again, ever my polite and friendly little boy: “Please I want to play too!” Alan shook his head again and shoved the Tiny One. At this point both Alan and my son looked at me and I called on over: “We don’t use our hands on others; everyone should be allowed to play.” Seriously this was one of the hardest things I have had to do thus far as a parent. But a valuable lesson was going to be taught.
At this point the Tiny one ambled back on over to me and Alan took off for the other structure with his friends but kept staring at us. The Tiny One was confused and asked: “Mama, that boy not nice, why not nice to me?” My heart shattered into a million pieces as I realized this was going to be just the beginning of the long road of life which has more mountain high successes and praises and valley deep rejections. I explained to him simply that sometimes other kids don’t want to play with us, but I was so proud of him for standing up for himself and still offering to be friends with this boy.
Over the next hour, I watched as my loving and forgiving child would play and then see Alan and would try to become friends with him and his buddies. But Alan kept rejecting him, yelling at him, trying to push him, etc. It was so hard to watch my son learn this lesson, but it is a fact of life.
Over that hour of playing I studied all the kids playing on the playground and “eavesdropped” on all the conversations taking place. I warn you, what I heard was both shocking and heart breaking. Every single little group of friends, boys and girls alike had little groups they were playing with and EVERY SINGLE
GROUP was being “mean” or bullying a child. I watched as a gaggle of boys ran around ostracizing a little boy who was playing with sand saying: “he isn’t cool because he likes to play with sand.” (WHAT?!?!I I must be really uncool then) watched another little group running around talking “smack” about another child saying how bad she was at sports and she was “ugly”. Kids were getting into fist fights, finally a coach walked past and told them to knock it off. I really wish I could have recorded all this to share with you Moms, because it truly was a shocking eye opener for me. I just could not believe the amount of meanness and ostracizing that was taking place on a playground filled with children under 10!!!!
What has happened to our children?!?!!?!? Is this what is taking place on the playgrounds across America right now? Why are our children so angry, vengeful and hateful? When did it become like this? I know that it
takes places sometimes, but the bullying was rampant and it has increased since my years as a teacher! What have we done to our children to make them this way? The honest answer moms…. We have failed as parents and caretakers for our little ones. Children learn behavior from home, from other people around them and from one another. If these children are angry and mean, it is because they see angry and mean behavior at home. This is UNACCEPTABLE! Don’t get me wrong, I know heartache is going to take place.
I know my Tiny One as he grows will have his share of rejection from others, IT IS A PART OF LIFE! However what I witnessed was extreme and concerning! I have heard from my friends who now have children in the elementary schools who say they see the same things. It breaks my heart. We all want to protect our children and shield them from the negative parts of our world. But we do have to let them experience the good with the bad.
Right before we left the playground, we were swinging. I watched little Alan, run up to his mother who had finally appeared and finally it all clicked for me. I watched as this mother, who had 4 boys showered the oldest with praise and attention and ignored Alan even as Alan got picked on by his brother and friends. I watched as other kids threw rocks at Alan and my heart began to break for this little misunderstood boy who just wanted and needed more attention. Alan picked up a rock like one of his other brothers and threw it at the Tiny One. I saw the oldest brother looking at me, waiting for my reaction. As the Tiny One picked up a rock to return fire, I calmly told my child, “No we don’t do that, rocks are not for hitting people with, we play with them but we do not hurt others.” The older brother walked over to Alan and told him the same thing. Modeling appropriate behavior works! At this point Alan came over and helped my son collect rocks.
When it was time for him to leave with his mother, she seemed to have little patience for him wanting to bring home his new rock treasures, Alan was very disappointed but stuck them in his bag anyway.
On the way home, my son and I talked about the whole situation. We talked about how the boy eventually became our “friend” because we kept reaching out and being nice to him. That in life there would be people who would not want to be his friend, but that he should always, ALWAYS respond with kindness to others.
I’m not sure if the lesson sank in for him, but the Tiny One was ecstatic that eventually the boy played with him!
In my heart, I know there will be countless more times when my son will be rejected and it makes me so sad. But I was also bursting with pride at how well he had handled the situation and how he responded with kindness each time. I leave you with a final thought…..
As parents we have a responsibility to instill values into our children that will enable them to be successful adults. These adults are going to be taking care of us one day and I don’t know about you, but I want those adults to be compassionate, caring, kind and passionate; but most of all I want them to be STRONG IN CHARACTER. I want adults who will be in charge of raising the next generation to improve on us and raise happy children. So please, model the behavior that you want to see our future society have, I shudder to think that if we don’t, how they will treat us all when we are older. Don’t let your children see you be vengeful, hateful or unkind. They are impressionable. We only get a short time with them when they are innocent, let them remain so for as long as possible and maybe the future might just be a better place.
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