As I walked away holding my eldest girl’s hand, the boy yelled after me: “But I wanted you to bounce me on the seesaw. Come back lady, please lady you have to play with me”. I gripped my girl’s hand as we walked faster to our car, where my husband was buckling our two other children into their seats.
I felt like a terrible adult. Although he was not my child, I felt a sense of responsibility to him. His mother was completely disengaged. Perhaps she’d had a long day and needed a break. Perhaps she was unwell. Perhaps he’s a tough kid and she’d had enough of entertaining him. Perhaps this was her chosen parenting style – to dump and disengage.
We had gone to the park to hang out as a family. It’s been a busy week and we needed some together time. The moment we stepped onto the bark chips we were pounced on by this boy. Every time, one of our kids tried to go down the slide he’d push in front of them and sit there. Every time one of our kids went to slide down a pole or climb a ladder, he was there blocking their path. His mother sat there watching, not at any stage stepping in. Then his behaviour escalated. He tried to push one of our kids of some play equipment. Still no response from his mother, so we moved to another part of the playground.
He chased after us. She took this as her moment to grab a magazine and sit reading under a tree. Again, he pushed past our kids, until Miss E pointedly told him he was not welcome.
He moved on to another family, until they too got up and left. He passed us with tears in his eyes, still his Mum sat reading her magazine. My heart reached out to him, but shamefully I did nothing. I just stood there watching him wandering to another group of kids; lonely and needy.
They’re everywhere; attention starved children with longing in their eyes. Their desperate need for validation pushing others away. Their parents dumping their kids in public places – parks, pools and shopping centre playgrounds – with an expectation others will entertain them. A number of times lately, we’ve been in a playground and a caregiver has instructed their young child to play while they’ve headed off elsewhere. Does that mean we are then responsible for that child?
I’m all for free range parenting, if it’s premeditated and comes with safety mechanisms in place, but not when the only reason you parent that way is because you are lazy and don’t give a shit about your kid.
What are your thoughts on pushy and needy kids in playgrounds? Do you ever say anything to their parents? Do you feel a sense of guilt?
Love to hear what you think,