Monday, April 20, 2009

Ada gets kissed... and what's parent protocol?

Saturday was a beautiful day here in the city. After Ada took a nice afternoon nap (thank goodness she's back on a napping schedule! Yippee!) we headed out to the park for some fun on the baby swing--and an attempt at the slide.

I'm not sure what parks look like in Suburban areas but parks in the city on a nice day are hopping. There must have been 10 kids at this park when we arrive, and either one or both of their parents accompanied them. Then 20 more kids came and went during our visit. It was neat to see the variety of parents in the neighborhood. How different their kids are in age--or really, how close they all seemed to be to Ada's age. However, even though the kids are all similar ages, the parents seem to range from about 27-45. I thought one of the woman might have been a nanny which I thought odd on a Saturday. And one woman appeared to be some one's crazy Aunt as she was having way too much fun--which I know isn't really even possible but she was more excited to be at the park than anyone I've ever seen. She arrived right as we were leaving but it was still interesting.

So here we are in the park. Rick, Ada and I and about 20 other people we don't know. Ada's enjoying the swing, then we move to the little slide. She spun around while going down and almost knocked her head on the side so we moved to the big slide in order to ride with her. That makes sense right? Advance the danger level so we can protect her? Rick went first. This is an older model slide. All metal. Has a metal dome over the top to keep kids from falling over the edge. Rick put Ada on his lap, hunched over so he'd clear the ceiling of the dome, and came shooting out of the slide at top speed. It was about 15 feet high and it is angled funny at the bottom so that it throws you into the ground instead of boosting you into air for your landing. Luckily, Rick was quick enough to prevent a wipe out.

Then I went. A tight fit even for me, and a reminder that I am claustrophobic, we made it down the slide with a similar ending of me almost smashing into the ground at the end. Rick took another turn and then we were saved by our friend Sarah and her little boy Aaron. They distracted us so that Ada could eat some dirt and wood chips while climbing on the jungle gym. A few more parents arrived and the park got pretty full at this point. Aaron was playing ball with a little boy and then ran off to climb the steps to the slide. The little boy, just a few inches taller than Ada--maybe 2 years old, ran to his mom to get a hug and kiss. (We don't know this boy mind you.) Then he crawled down from her arms and ... what's that? He's headed toward Ada with puckered lips. Oh, this is kinda cute. Here it comes. Damn. Why don't I have the camera? Smooch! He gave her a big kiss on the face and then, because he didn't know his own strength, as he was hugging her, he accidentally pushed her over, which ended in Ada bumping her head on the side of the slide. She came up all screams. Mild, fake I'm-fine-but-I-want-some-attention-now-damn-it screams. Poor thing didn't even know what to do. But it was quite funny to see the little boy's parents reaction. They apologized for him knocking her over and went on to a different part of the park. We made light of it and kept playing. No big deal. Ada was fine and went right back to running around and eating dirt so we knew she wasn't hurt at all.

But this brought up the conversation between Rick and I on the walk home.

What is proper parent protocol when your toddlers are playing?
I try to be a very hands-off mom when Ada plays so that she can explore on her own and learn new things and be independent. And when she is fighting with another kid over a toy, chances are she didn't start it because she's very passive. But the other parents frequently jump in and say "Now Billy, that's not how we share. Ada had that first. Let her play with it and then you can have a turn when she's done." Is that how you get your kids to share? How much do they really understand at this age? And what do you do when your kid is the punk at playgroup who can't get along with other kids?

We also talked about how to react when Aaron took Ada's water and started drinking it. I know Ada isn't sick so I wasn't worried or bothered that he was drinking from it. I had another water bottle with me she could use anyway. But Rick said "He can have it. That's fine." And realized later that maybe he should have directed that comment to Sarah instead of to Aaron. As in, "Aaron, how about we ask your mom if you can have Ada's water. Sarah, it's fine with us if he has Ada's water. She isn't sick and we have more. But only if it is okay with you."

That just seems like a whole lot of work to me. Parents have to walk on eggshells all the time trying to teach their kids manners and not tick off the other parents in the park. Is there an easier way? Do parents get less involved once the kids get older?

I also saw a gentleman in the sandbox with his daughter. She picked up another girl's bucket and shovel and he said, "Can you ask her if you can use that?" His daughter didn't say anything but started rubbing her stomach in sign language to say "please" and the girl's parents said, "Oh, it's fine if she plays with that." Then he explained that it is important for him that she's asks to play with it and he encouraged his daughter to use her words since the other little girl might not know the sign for "please".

This parenting stuff is hard work! Who knew.

Eventually I hope to figure all of this out. Maybe I can sign up for a "Mommy's Park Etiquette" class to get on the fast track to being a proper parent. Until then, I'm just going to try to keep my kid from ticking off another kid or parent and do the best to teach her how to mind her manners. But I think I'm going to wait a few more months first. We're still working on saying "mommy" and "daddy" at this point, let alone "please", "thank you", and "may I play with that?"

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