A Fine Line

You guys, I’m in a quandary.

I was at the park yesterday with the squirt, letting him blow off some steam.  We went early-ish in the day so there really wasn’t anyone there except for a few nannies, making sure their charges were getting some sunshine while they chatted away in various languages on their cell phones.

I kinda prefer it this way.  And Ben could care.  As long as he gets pushed on the swings long enough, and I don’t hinder his new found climbing skills, to the detriment of my blood pressure, he’s good.

And frankly, I don’t like dealing with other parents.

Now, you may be thinking, “Oh you misanthrope!”  and you’d be right, but that isn’t why I don’t want to deal with them.  Socially, I appear fairly inapproachable, so I don’t get too many “mommy chats” that make me want to pour bleach in my ears.  No, I don’t like dealing with them because I don’t know the rules anymore.

Look–I have a boy.  A boy who craves sensory input.  A boy who is JUST beginning to understand the concept of ownership.  Who cannot understand what other kids say to him most of the time, and can’t read a social cue for nothing.

Now, he’s not some Tasmanian devil trolling the playstructure with destruction.  He’s a happy kid, smiling, scripting his own strange language, smiling, wanting to join in, smiling and running around.  He loves the slide.  The higher the better.  And he loves, LOVES, when kids wanna pile on one another in some sort of game that only kids understand.

If a kid chases him, run near him, or within 5 feet of him, IT’S ON.  If two kids are squishing against one another in a 10-foot radius, he will find them and join in.  And generally, giggles ensue.

But sometimes he engages first, for whatever reason. Because he doesn’t understand that not all kids love a good squish.  And THAT I cannot explain in words that he understands.  I’ve tried–GODDESS KNOWS–but he just looks at me all cockeyed.

But even that isn’t what confuses me.

Here’s the story.  Yesterday, my kid was wanting to go down a slide.  And there was a little girl in front of him, younger, waiting at the top of the slide.  A tall slide too–a big kid slide. and her mom was on the sidelines, checking her FB status.  I don’t judge.  My phone was in my hand too.  Off–but in my hand.  Anyway, the little girl was waiting at the top FOREVER, and seemed to be smiling and giggling with Ben, right behind her.  I reminded Ben to wait his turn, then she went down the slide and he quickly followed.  Then they ran back up the structure to do it again.  And she waited at the top, with Ben right behind her.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Now, I couldn’t see their legs, but I have to assume that Ben gave her a leg shove to move her down the slide.  and she came down the slide, physically unharmed, but crying, into her mother’s arms. (we both rushed over about the same time, so props to her for multitasking with the phone and parenting)  I grab Ben and apologize to the mother and gently admonish Ben for not being gentle with a little one–which is my rule.

The daggers that came from the mother to me for the remainder of this park adventure could have put ginsu to shame.

And I thought–when did we become such pansies?

Look–I am a helicopter mom.  I know it.  My kid has a tendency to lash out or do things that are inappropriate for which I try to run interference.  But he’s also a kid.  A boy, even.  There is a great deal of shenanigans to be done in his lifetime, that I will try my best to not hinder.  I’m just trying to keep him from inadvertently beating anyone up in the process.  Look–he’s strong, with some weight behind him.  He could decimate someone.  Not that he wants to, but he could.

And even calling myself a helicopter mom, I don’t hover NEARLY as much as others.  And I don’t judge–well, sorta, but only in my head as I am obviously in no place to really say anything.

And not wanting to sound like an old geezer–but when we were little, my mom wasn’t even AT the park with me (granted it was our backyard–but still).  There was no hover.  There was playground justice.  Big kids looked after little kids.  Little kids ate sand.  Bullying happened. Wrestling  and grab-ass occurred.  Monkey bars were licked.  Cuts and scrapes were acquired.  Friendships were made.  I’m in no way saying it was perfect or bucolic, but it was different.  And we were tougher for it.

Now, I’ve been annoyed with other kids and their parents at the park, here and here.  But I’ve also seen kids pile on Benji in ways that he liked and didn’t like.  If he didn’t, he usually comes running to me, and I tell him to avoid those kids.  Because that’s how that works, right?  Am I supposed to sit there in indignant anger?  Am I doing this wrong?

Eventually we had to leave because the local day-camp released the inmates, and the noise was a bit much for my boy.  But that lady didn’t quit glaring at me until I was out of eyesight.  really.

This.  This is the reason I dislike the park so. Because obviously a memo went out on how to hinder kids from playing, and I missed it.

Categories: Autism, parenting, Snark | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “A Fine Line

  1. Wow, this could have been me writing this post about my oldest son! I agree with you wholeheartedly. I hover for the same reasons you do–to prevent my son from being inappropriate. Now that he is 8, he is much less likely to be, but I watch just in case. Luckily, over the years, his need for dog piling other kids has diminished somewhat and we have channeled it a lot, too.

    But it’s the parents who drive me nuts. Sure, I don’t like when my kids are hurt by others, etc, but one incident does not mean my kid is a bully. Danny has pushed kids down the slide in the same sort of scenario as you describe. Okay, yes, he shouldn’t do that, and we have a teachable moment, and I might even put him in a timeout, especially if it happens again. But the looks of daggers? Seriously? Give me a break. The kid wasn’t hurt. Besides, I have always thought one of the unspoken rules of the playground is if you stay at the top of the slide too long, someone’s gonna push you.

    Anyway, wish i could go to the park with a parent like you! I think our sons would have a blast chasing each other and wrestling!

  2. My son too is big enough to cause some harm, if he really wanted to. But all he wants is to be included, to be shown some respect, to be wanted. That’s all any of us really wants. That’s what we want for them.
    I have found that, if one of the little kids is pushing my son, my son is the one who gets blamed by the other parents. It has often been the case that it was THEIR kid who was being the bully, but the parents see his size (even though he’s only seven) and assume the worst.
    They say nothing when their child pushes my child, when they refuse to allow him to play, when they actually pull toys away from him and refuse to share. But if my son defends himself, they are all over it, ready to condemn, just because he is bigger.
    Cameron is not a child who starts a real fight. He wants to have pretend battles, but not real fights.
    He faces an issue that he may have to face throughout his life: The other kids want to pick on the bigger kid, just to see how far they can push him and what he’s made of.
    The children I mention are usually those of family members. Their child acts in an inappropriate manner, yet, my child is the “bad” one.
    I have looked around, checking to see if the other parents are going to do something to get their child into line. If they don’t, I have no problem with using a stern voice on their child.
    In the past, I would never step in and use “the voice” on another parent’s child. Autism has taught me to come out of my shell and fight for my child, regardless of who gets offended. My child is more important to me than their approval, and I’ll be darned if I’m gonna let them push my child around.

  3. We go through the same crap when we go to the park. And if you gave Benji a reminder about playground etiquette, then you did more than most parents do. One time a big kid on a bike ran right over Jacob while he was playing in the water. Luckily the big kid on the bike missed the 3 or 4 little ones, but he plowed right into Jacob. All the mom did was tell him to be careful when riding his bike. I was like “What?” I then told the kid not to ride his bike around the water feature. Then his mom shot some daggers at me, but I don’t care. Then she and her son both left the park, so it was a win.

    But to me, as long as no one got hurt then it was okay. And if the little girl’s mom cared, whe’d have been properly supervising her daughter. So I wouldn’t worry too much. And you’re right, kids don’t know how to play any more. But what can you do?

  4. I couldn’t agree more- my oldest goes to the park and never fails to find the group of boys that want to wrestle and roll around in the grass. And I let it happen. Other Moms run over to stop it but honestly, that’s part of being a boy. That’s part of getting sensory input. That’s part of how boys bond. And if they are all laughing and happy about it, great! And if there is an altercation- give them a minute to figure it out because they honestly usually can.

    My youngest (the one on the spectrum) does need a little bit more help with the social piece but even him I try to give space. We’ve been given the dagger looks many times though…

    In the pediatric clinic we work in our male OT is highly sought by the boys…because he isn’t scared to crash and run and pigpile on kids…and it works! Boys need it. And some girls too.

  5. My boy is pretty good at the park, but hyper. But yeah, I’ve seen those glaring looks from people whose children are delicate little flowers, and came to the park only to look at the clouds and pick daisies. Crimony, let them rough it up a little bit. Connor has taken a smack on occasion for being lippy to a kid, and when he came to tell me I made sure to tell him that while hitting isn’t okay, he brought it on with his smart mouth.

    I think maybe we go overboard in validating our children’s feelings when they feel scorned (I say “we” but really I mean “them”). Example: at camp Connor asked to see an acorn that his friend picked up from the playground. Then he gave it to the teacher and asked them to throw it away, because it’s part of nature and doesn’t belong inside (aspie rigidity). The girl was all upset about the acorn, and fought with him the rest of the day. Her mom asked to meet the next morning so they could work it out, because her daughter was “upset all evening” about the issue. The issue, once again, being a freakin’ acorn…of which there are roughly 83,000 of on the playground. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have indulged my child’s emotional upheaval over an acorn, but would have said “this is a small problem, get another acorn next time you’re outside.”

    But really, you are far more mature than I. I’m pretty sure I would have asked her if there was something we needed to discuss, since I couldn’t help but notice she was staring at me.

  6. You know what? Shit happens. Especially when you’re playing on your phone instead of making sure your child gets down the slide safely if it’s THAT important to you that the child does so. I figure as long as no one is being pushed over the side at the top, there’s no crying, screaming, or broken bones, we’ve been successful. I could go on for days about bubble wrapped kids, but what pisses me off the most is how I have to bubble wrap my kids to a degree more than I want to because other parents only selectively parent their children at the park.

    • I agree about the selective parenting. These parents don’t mind their children, and then they go overboard over the smallest things.

  7. blogginglily

    I don’t know. . . sounds like maybe it was HER problem, not yours. No memo. If she had a problem with you she should have approached you with it. Otherwise. . . obviously not your problem.

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