Saturday, February 19, 2005

Oh No! He's Got A Stick!

Yesterday was the first gorgeous day in a long while, so I put The Baby in the Bjorn and the big kids in the jogging stroller and headed down the street to the park. It was chillier than the sunshine suggested, but still warm enough without jackets.

Thanks to new sidewalks from Public Works, we could walk all the way to the park without going cross country or jaywalking, a definite change for the better.

Shortly after we arrived at the park, another mom and daughter arrived. We chatted for a minute and found out that her daughter and The Girl were almost exactly the same age. The Girl, though, is a tiny thing, and the other child had several inches on her.

What followed was a study, I think, in the difference having three versus one child makes on one's parenting methods and attitude. On the one hand, I sat and cuddled the Baby and left my big kids to their own devices; I hadn't brought them to a park so that I would have to entertain them. So while the Baby and I enjoyed quality time, the big kids swarmed up the ladders and down the slides and back and forth across the field surrounding the playground, yelling, chatting, fighting, the usual.

In contrast, the other mother hovered over her daughter. She helped her up the stairs to the slide, the sprinted back down to the bottom of the slide so that she would be there to catch her daughter when she came down. When her daughter ventured more than six feet off of the playground surface, following my ruffians, she nervously called for her daughter to come back. When her daughter emulated my big kids' simian-like behavior on the ladders and slides, she was subtly but definitely discouraged from following these poor role models.

And then the Boy found weapons. When he pulled a stick out of his pocket, asked the other mom if she liked his "pocket knife," and began running around babbling about how he could sharpen it on a rock, she looked -- concerned. But then he brandished a long stick with a branch for a handgrip. "Look at my machine gun! Ratatatatatat!" he shouted, as he sprayed the playground with invisible bullets.

Although it is to the other mother's credit that she did not immediately flee with her daughter and call DCS, her face became a distinctly uncomfortable -- and sour-looking. Guns! Violence! Male aggression! I felt relieved when the machine gun morphed into a pencil, but then The Girl had to snatch it, declare a sword, and start slicing up her brother.

On the other hand, the two big kids were running, chasing, playing, laughing, and otherwise enjoying a beautiful day, and they weren't even fighting -- all of which somewhat mitigated my parental shame.

The other child saw the same thing I saw and wanted a stick, too. She picked up a tiny twig about the length of a pencil but about as thin as a leaf stem and started running toward the fray. "No!" shrieked her mom. "Be careful with that! Don't hit. Don't run with a stick." Anyone who has spent time with two year olds -- especially the female versions -- will not be surprised to learn that this order was not well-received. The little girl pouted and then -- gasp! -- threw the stick, which flew past my head and landed behind me. I was never in danger, but for this transgression, the little girl got a firm talking-to and time out.

I took this as my cue to move our brood along, before their baleful influence led this little girl further astray and into further trouble.

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