The Kids at the Playground

by Ginger on October 18, 2011

in Mom Thoughts

There were six of them, ranging in age from what appeared to be about three up to maybe…eleven? They clearly outnumbered the woman with them, grandma it turned out to be. But it was the park where, in theory, six more is just six more. Perhaps a little louder than it was in the moments before they appeared, but beyond that, what’s another kid or six?

At first I didn’t pay them TOO much mind, other than a quick thought “oh, I hope the big kids don’t stumble over J too much.” What can I say, he likes the big kid slides more than the little ones built for his age–some kids get annoyed when he slows down their stampede to the top, but I understand both sides of that coin.

But as the minutes wore on, I felt a rising sense of tension in the park. At first I couldn’t tell where I was feeling it from, but soon mutters escalated and it was VERY clear the source of the tension. The grandmother was screaming…no SCAH-REAMING…at two of the six kids. Not disciplining. Not yelling. Not frustration, not exhaustion, hell, it wasn’t even just anger that whipped from her mouth over and over and over again(though there was anger). It was disgust. And what sounded, as time went on, as the edge of hatred. It started with one kid, something about swinging too high. Then two. Later it was one of the others about running up the slide, and then a different one about sliding down the wrong way. One kid got stuck doing something dumb and that resulted in a verbal barrage of how it served the kid right. And on, and on. And on.

These examples don’t sound as bad as they did that day. The shrillness of her screams wasn’t the point though, it was the tone under them. The look of disgust on her face.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Those kids rode roughshod over her. They clearly knew they had her outnumbered, and that she couldn’t do anything about it. When screamed at not to swing so high, one kid just pumped her legs harder and faster. When one got screamed at not to run up the slides, three more did just that. These kids were not well behaved, at least not for her, though I have to wonder a little if they’d have behaved for anyone.

But I’m not sure I can blame them. I’ve never responded well to being screamed at, for one. For another, it’s hard to give anyone respect who treats you so poorly. I’m not sure I’d listen to anyone who talked to me the way she talked to them. One of the girls, after getting screamed at, walked off by herself for a little bit. She kind of squatted down and I could tell she was either willing herself to calm down or at the very least, not cry or scream or something. After a few minutes, she stood up, pulled her shoulders back, and joined the rest of the kids again. Her face was stony though. I would have cried…but then, I never was treated that way as a kid. I didn’t have to learn to protect against that kind of barrage.

There’s a chicken and the egg question here for me. Were they so poorly behaved because of her approach to them? Or was her approach to them because they were so poorly behaved. I mean, I clearly don’t know their family situation, but I’ll say from what was screamed about the playground (seriously, I wasn’t eavesdropping, but it was IMPOSSIBLE to not hear this), this wasn’t a distant grandma filling in for the weekend. But I contend that even if it was, talking to kids that way isn’t the way to get them to behave for you.

I don’t know. I left the park before they did–they were making everyone uncomfortable and so when J started to tantrum I took it as a sign to leave–but the time that we shared on that playground made me a combination of sad, angry and horrified. I still wonder what, if anything, I should have said or done. I really try not to judge out in the real world–your snippet of a view of someone’s day just CAN’T give you the full picture–but I left there hoping that those kids have someone who treats them as worthy. I hope they don’t learn to talk to their kids that way. I hope so many, many, MANY things for those kids.

And I hope that even in my most angry and frustrated moments, that I never, ever, ever sound like that to Jackson.

bekah October 18, 2011 at 9:34 am

Even when Jack is at his worst, it doesnt justify me screaming at him. Im 27, he’s 2. Im sure whe was stressed, I wouldnt be able to handle six kids either, but her behavior is unfortunate.

Ginger October 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I try not to scream. It’s happened a few times, and I always feel like crap, every time. And I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but it was so…ugly.

Brooke @ mommalytics October 18, 2011 at 11:07 am

Oh I’ve screamed. Maybe not to that extent, but I have. It’s not my finest moment, but it’s exhaustion, frustration, beaten down mom. I’m sure I would have judged at the playground too, but I also always wonder what happened earlier that day that might have caused this person to react this way. Maybe she’s always this way… or maybe not. 6 kids, one grandma? Maybe she has custody… if my kids grow up and have six kids and then do something that requires I take custody, I might have days like this too. I’m not trying to excuse the behavior, but I also don’t want to berate her when I know that I’ve felt that way with just one.

Ginger October 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Oh, I’ve screamed too, don’t get me wrong. I know I have before and I will again. I can usually look at a parent screaming and go “oh, I’ve BEEN there.” Parenting is HARD, yo.

But this was so different. It wasn’t just screaming, and it wasn’t just once. It was like, 45 minutes of berating and disgust at these kids. I do give her a little benefit of the doubt because, WHOA six kids, one adult? Yeah, that is a LOT. But I really really hope it was a “day” and not the norm.

Megan October 18, 2011 at 10:47 pm

I see a lot of this kind of thing where I’m from. I attribute a lot of it to the socioeconomic reality of where we live. There are many grandmas raising their teenage children’s children. There are too many kids, not enough money to take care of them. And it seems to cause a lot of resentment and a seemingly difficult time keeping one’s temper. I, too, try to be sympathetic. After all, I am extremely fortunate to have nothing better to worry about than if I paid my kid enough attention or nurtured her self-esteem enough today. I could be worried about how much I was able to give her to eat today or whether I could afford diapers.

However, as much as I try to keep perspective when faced with what appears to be an unfit caregiver, there are just some things that I can’t help but deem “bad.” And verbal abuse is one of them. It seems like this lady’s volume and tone weren’t the only issues. It was WHAT she was saying in addition to how she was saying it. And, yelling at your kid? Sure. We all do that. But, for you to feel like she was disgusted with them? That sounds icky. And sad.

Sure, we don’t know the whole story. And it’s good to keep that in mind. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t admit that it made you sad and uncomfortable.

clara October 19, 2011 at 7:34 am

That would have made me uncomfortable too. Especially because there’s nothing you can do but hope for the best.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks October 19, 2011 at 8:48 am

A number of mothering boards I belong to have recently broached the subject of when do you intervene in a stranger’s business. I actually have a post drafted about it. For me, so long as the children aren’t in imminent danger, I wouldn’t get involved in the situation you described. Though, it is not only unfortunate for those kids, but it’s also unfortunate that that family interrupts what should otherwise be fun playtime for other families.

kate October 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Whenever I see something like this play out in public – I wonder to myself… If this is how you act in PUBLIC, how do you act in the privacy of your own home behind closed doors…

Elizabeth November 5, 2011 at 7:54 am

How wretched she must have felt to lose control over herself that day. I’m sure she was overwhelmed, but to lose perspective like that, something else had to have been going on. I hope those poor kids learn to not take it all too personally–it doesn’t seem like *they’re* the ones with the problem.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: