My daughter was pretty content in her stroller but I knew that wouldn't last. I swallowed hard looking over at the play area, coming up with about a dozen good reasons not to take her in there: "She is fine just sitting here," "There are a lot of kids, it looks crowded," "It costs $2 to get in."
My subconscious was on to me, "You don't want to take her in there because you're afraid of what will happen to her!" Thank you Jiminy Cricket. I flicked him off my shoulder, grabbed the diaper bag and wheeled the stroller in. Her eyes widened as we got closer. She couldn't get unbuckled fast enough as I grumbled to myself, knowing I begrudgingly made the right choice.
Bringing her to the playground or any place where there are other kids freaks me out. I'm afraid she is going to get pushed, stomped on, or even worse, be playing with a toy that another kid is going to come over and take. What do I do when I see that interaction take place? Do I go over and try to nicely discipline another person's kid? Do I ignore it and give my daughter another toy teaching her how to be passive? What can you teach on the playground when its communal space, everything is fair game, and half the parents are talking on their cell phones?
I sat perched on the edge of the sand pit, ready to spring into action while engaging my daughter in a fun game of shoveling sand in the bucket. There were a lot of older boys playing roughly around her making me nervous. My chest tightened with every passing kid, holding my breathe until they got distracted and ran over to the slide.
A shy kid, I always suffered in social settings for having the inability to open my mouth and in turn let everyone else get their way. I was always picked last in gym class, made fun of because of my big eyes, and always had a sense that someone was talking about me even when I'd try really hard to be nice. My husband never experienced any of these things as a child. In fact he claims he was a young extrovert and a protector on the playground, sticking up for his underdog friends when another person bullied them. He can't fathom what I went through and doesn't understand this fear I have of what will become of our daughter in a social setting.
Am I a potentially overbearing, crazy mother for having this fear? No, because as a parent, I'm realizing I have my own baggage that I have to deal it. There will be more birthday parties, play dates and subsequently more reasons to keep her locked up at home and safe. I'm sure other parents have similar and various other fears. The challenge lies in asking ourselves what we are really achieving by our actions and equally, our inability to act. Are we prioritizing the development of our kids, or our own sanity and inability to face our own fears?
Interest in the shovel and bucket was naturally short lived so my daughter left them to navigate her way around the sand pit. After she left, a little boy came over and started playing with them. From across the pit she dropped her new toy, ran over, waved her arms wildy and shouted gibberish at him. He looked up sheepishly, slowly stood up and walked away, leaving the shovel and bucket at his feet. My daughter spun around, returned to her new spot and continued to play, leaving her mother stunned, not quite believing what she had just witnessed.
I looked across the sand to my unassuming, little spitfire offspring quietly playing with a dump truck, and smiled to myself. I couldn't help but think that she just might be okay.