Playground Politics.

Its really hard to explain to a 6 year old why hes not going to the park today… much more so that its not his fault. Don’t let anybody ever tell you otherwise. When it comes to the point that quitting time ends in one child or another being dragged off home by their respective parent kicking and screaming in a full blown tantrum, it gets a little uncomfortable for all parties involved. Theres always that one kid in turn whos the center of it all. A 6 year olds world is so full of possibilities, and discoveries come at them fast and furiously so much so that unfortunately one will eventually come across Kryptonite, which bears great power and requires great responsibility, of which 6 year olds have almost none of. The power of acceptance and rejection within the simple words “You’re not my friend!”, said with a smug pout.

This is invariably followed anywhere from tears to a bawling child looking for solace to the parent, accompanied between sniffles in a dejected tone, “so and so wont let me be his friend.”… and his world as he knows comes to an end.. for a little while anyway. Anywhere from 72 seconds to oh.., about the time it takes for the ride home to Sponge bob on the telly.

Assimilating it all must be hard, I for the life of me cant remmember it being this hard.. but then again, how much could I remember? Age has taken its toll and buried most of my memories in the abyss of my youth. Without the help of deep meditation in an isolated cave up in the Himalayas to dredge through the stress and self poisoned dead and dying neurons , i took the minimalistic effort of asking mom, who by this time only anecdotally remembers the good times.

Sometimes they’re consolable, sometimes they’re not. And you just hope and pray that today is not your kids turn. And when its the same one kid thats been the bane of all the other parents frequenting the park after school, whats one to do? Criticize parenting skill? Thats a social no-no. Isnt it? If a child is constantly the source of trouble,  it certainly would be nice if the child had stricter supervision or removed from the situation until the Kryptonite is neutralized. Take responsibility of your child, its plain and simple. How thick must one be not to realize this plain and simple fact. Whats the half life of Kryptonite anyhow? Yeah, stay away for that long why dont cha.

An incident or two far and in between is tolerable and easily forgivable. They are after all 6 year olds. But, when almost on a daily basis the kid is aggressive, physically abusive, has a potty mouth and without remorse wields the power of Kryptonite, it brings a whole new dimension to the situation. In fact i wouldn’t hazard to say there was a syndrome lurking under there somewhere, and certainly may benefit looking into. Maybe then the rest of us could sympathize with the self stimulating hyperactive-impulsive brat . Parents banded together, and in hush tones without trying to sound contrite, commented on the situation. Some even suggestion solutions. Some simply stopped coming to the playground all together.

I myself instructed my own 6 year old to stay away, turn the other cheek, ignore and at worse counter the Kryptonite with “You’re not  my friend either” and leave it darned well at that. Easier said than done though. Acceptance is such an important part of a 6 year olds social structure. The more something is taken away, the more that very same thing is sought to the point of meltdown. Que kicking, screaming and one very red faced parent.

After many “talks” and promises that this park day wont be like the last, play ensued with the same entourage while the parents idly conversed about what ever was interesting at that moment and hardly five minutes had not passed when a commotion broke out near the climbing wall. This wasnt going well i though to myself. But, as it had turned out my many talks seemed to have been working. Anti Kryptonite! I had found Anti Kryptonite! Said kid was very much distrought as he couldnt break and separate two other 6 year olds doing whatever it is 6 year olds do, one of which was my 6 year old who stood his ground even when faced with with the all powerful “You’re not my friend!!”. It was a personal  hallelujah moment  complete with imaginary fist pumping! The kid was reduced to what he really was when striped of his power, a scared little 6 year old bully. His mom hastened over to bring calm and make peace among them at which point when questioned as to the cause of the commotion, my 6 year old calmly quipped “Daddy said I cant be his friend.”

Ack!! The glance, that sidelong glance of disbelief of his mom.. the “is this true? how could you!!”. It felt like my world had come to an end. Swings folded on themselves and slides collapsed as the very ground we stood on got sucked into a vortex and consumed by my livid disbelief of what had just happened and its fallout. The other parents all knew perfectly well, that they also were party to their own private “talks” behind closed doors to their own 6 year olds, now shifted their weight and shuffled about leaving me feeling quite alone and defenseless. Damn! Did this have to blow up in the worst possible way?

Red faced and feeling quite foolish, i tried to make it clear that i did not tell him that and that he had to be everybody’s friend. Things took a downturn when they had to leave in a flail of kicking legs and squeal of minivan tires as the kid simply wouldn’t calm down, complaining that my 6 year old wouldn’t be his friend and was not being nice. Hah! Shoes on the other foot now eh. I sheepishly went into damage control mode, my calls went unanswered which left me thinking that i just had to accept my fate and the fact that i took it for the team.. not a very gracious lot mind you.

Done was done. For what it was worth, they did stay clear of the play park for a week or so. A week of no drama, just 6 year olds playing, doing what 6 year olds did best. No tears were shed that week. Meeting outside the school as we waited for dismissal was slightly awkward the first day. Nobody mentioned the events of the previous day and it remained numbly pleasant, although we all stood there under the shade of a tree on a beautiful spring afternoon knowing, like a dirty little secret, that I was the bad daddy.

We avoid the park when we can now, with some obviously trumped up excuse just to avoid another confrontation which would have been inevitable. As the days grow longer and warmer, I couldn’t wait for summer hols to begin just so i could take a break from playground politics. I just hope by the following year, the kids are wiser and play better together. Or we move… or something. Oh wait, I’ve another toddler  in the wings waiting to join the ranks forcing me once again to legislate playground politics. Maybe i’ll be wiser by then as well, better equipped to handle the situation and make better decisions, like letting the Mrs deal with it.

– asmd.


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