June 6, 2013 by Dadinator
On Sunday I took The Lad into town. For Guildfordians, town means the picturesque village of Castlemaine which is 15 minutes north up the main road. I was taking care of The Lad while The Mamanator was having a spell off her feet, as advised her physio. We were out shopping at the Castlemaine farmers market which happens monthly. I had a shopping list and powered along with a coffee in hand to act as my crutch. It was great; The Lad kept on attracting free stuff, I ran into people I knew and was able to carry considerable shopping and a 20 month old without too many difficulties. This is what we moved out of the city for in the first place. The fresh air, the fellowship and the friendliness. I then took The Lad over to playground in Victory Park next door to the market.
He had a great time. Playgrounds are among his favorite things. He can climb and traverse most of them independently these days, except for needing a slight brace at the bottom of a slide so he doesn’t come flying off. He loves to hang off cross bars and swing. I have hoisted him onto monkey bars to let him hang for a while before. He usually lasts a bit over 5 seconds before his grip fails and I need to catch him. As often happens on a Sunday morning there were other kids on the playground too. The kids playing on this playground around The Lad have always been wonderful. If they are older they give The Lad a wide berth, climb around and past him and understand that he’s just a little kid. If the are a similar age they stare at The Lad, who stares back, until someone laughs and they go their separate ways. I assume it’s some secret toddler custom to which adults are not privy.
For my part if I’ve noticed him holding up a queue at the slide or something I’ll jump in to move him along and ensure all is well in playground land. I am grateful most kids can accomodate a smaller one running around, but I don’t think their play should be interfered with by it.
The Lad is fascinated by bigger kids. He points to them and cackles with joy, his mouth opened wide into the biggest smile I’ve ever seen (per square centimetre of facial area). Sometimes bigger kids say hello, show him how to do something or even give him a hug. The Lad’s not quite up to the stage of interacting yet, although he has started to play with some of the toddlers he knows from The Mamanator’s mums’ group, so I’m sure it’s not too far off. But interactive play for The Lad is still to come.
After we’d been going for some time, a new group of three boys came onto the play equipment, my guess was they were 4-5 years old. They were playing together, and The Lad got himself up onto the platform they were all standing on. The it started. “Ha! Ha! Ha! stinky baby!” chortled one of the boys pointing a finger at The Lad. The others joined in immediately, pointing and laughing at The Lad who fortunately thought it was all part of a game, and pointed and laughed back. I was flabbergasted, it was so out of the blue. As soon as I collected my senses, I got right in there, teacher voice blazing.
“Is that good behaviour boys!?” I asked in a sharp tone without raising my voice too much. The three of them were stunned and stared at me with their mouths open, as I prepared to go on and tell them how big boys like them should be looking after smaller ones and setting a good example etc. etc… But I didn’t get the chance, instead I was shown a little moment to give me faith in parenting and humanity. A pack of dads (2 or 3 of them) descended on these would-be bullies, scooped them up one by one and gave them each a talking to. The only reason I was the first-responder to this incident was because I happened to be standing closest, had it been one of the other dads I’m certain they would have been the first to have words.
I then heard lots of variations of “we don’t pick on people smaller than us” and “How would you feel if someone was picking on you?” and “I thought you’d be better than that”. I apologised to one of them for being short with his son, to which the response was “On, don’t worry he was being mean, I’m sorry”. So to those on-the-case dads on Sunday in Castlemaine, whoever you are, I say thank you and I salute you.
Before The Lad (and before teaching) I was a pretty non-interventionist fellow. No longer though…. I think if I saw that kind of conduct these days I’d jump in there even if my own wasn’t involved. I’ve actually done it on that very playground if I see a child being mean to another child. I guess that’s one of the ways you change as you grow older, you become more of a busy body.