Talking to another mom friend the other day, I unleashed something I have been keeping secret since I became a mom myself: I correct kids on the playground ― my kids, your kids and other random kids who may need guidance.
It wasn’t until the other weekend at the park I realized how unpopular being a “kid corrector” is. My youngest has special needs and has always been rather intimidated by the playground. Climbing and sliding have never really been her thing, and for a kiddo with hypotonia, that totally makes sense. However, the other weekend, she actually climbed to the top of the playground. She waved to me, smiling and giggling uncontrollably.
There were only two ways down ― the steps she had just climbed up or an enclosed spiral slide. I held my breath as I watched her make her choice. She pointed hesitantly to the slide, and I did my best to force a smile. I wasn’t sure how this would go, but I’ve been trying hard to not let my own fears and doubts about her abilities affect her from trying new things. She walked over to slide, as if preparing to go down, but stopped.
It took me a minute to realize why she wasn’t on her way down ― a group of bigger kids had set up shop in the middle of the slide and were refusing to budge. No one could go down the slide.
Sure that the kids would eventually tire of their spot on the slide or overheat from it’s sauna-like qualities, I encouraged my daughter to come down the steps and promised her we would try the slide again.
But they didn’t.
Other kids tried to use the slide but were also unable ― the big kids screamed at them that they “better not come down.” It was like they had squatter’s rights on the slide.
I watched as little kid after little kid walked away from the slide defeated. I secretly hoped some bigger kid with some super strong legs would go down the slide and knock the whole lot out, but a quick glimpse around the playground left me less than hopeful.
It had been at least 10 minutes, and with no bigger kid in sight, I went to the bottom of slide and ― in the best teacher voice I could conjure up ― told them to get off the slide so other people could use it. Slowly, one by one, they exited the slide, making sure to avoid eye contact with me.
One mother on a bench gave me a smile and a thumbs up. Another and her friend gave me dirty looks. I get it. Correcting other people’s kids isn’t popular ― especially at the park. But before your totally disown me, hear me out.
I am not forever hovering with my megaphone correcting kids. In fact, I am all for kiddos resolving conflicts on their own. Maybe it’s the non-stop mom in me or maybe it’s the teacher in me who has had too long of a summer break. Either way, my intentions are good. My corrections aren’t meant to offend.
The truth is: I believe it takes a village. If I correct your kid, isn’t because I think he is terrible... or even worse, you are. It’s because I value our village. I want to make it stronger and kinder and more accepting. I want you to know you aren’t alone in this whole parenting gig, and I want to know that maybe I’m not alone too. Yes, you can correct my children.
While the park playground is a place for kids to be free and to play and to explore and to make mistakes, I still believe that parents need to be active facilitators and encourage appropriate behaviors.
In today’s climate a simple skim of the comment section on a Facebook post reveals a fair share of adults who believe they can say and do whatever they please and are above any repercussions. I don’t think teaching our children to be respectful and considerate of others is too much to ask ― at home and at school.
Why not start on the playground?