phoebe_in_tube.jpg phoebe_park.jpg

Phoebe and I went to the playground at our town park this morning before lunch. She’d been at daycare the past 3 days, and we didn’t get to spend much time together Monday, either. So I was determined we’d go do something fun together today.

The playground was more crowded than I’d ever seen it. Actually, there have been a number of times when we’ve been the only ones there, and other times when we’ve seen only a couple other kids. Today, though, there were a half dozen or so mothers there, and maybe 10 or so kids. I had the sense that a number of the mothers knew one another, so perhaps it was some sort of play group. A few of the mothers seemed moderately friendly, and I had at least one in-depth conversation about the the unexpected warmth of the day, and the duration of the recent rain shower.

There were several kids close to Phoebe’s size. Phoebe was interested in watching them, but didn’t interact much with them. There was a bit of smiling with one other toddler, and another kid who tried to get Phoebe to chase him, and then another kid (or maybe the same one) who tried to play with Phoebe. At some point, a couple of kids were walking away from the play equipment down a nearby path. Phoebe started to follow, from a bit of distance. One little boy, perhaps 2 years old, turned around and walked right up to Phoebe. I thought perhaps to meet her. He reached his hand out toward her, and I thought “how cute.”

Then he pushed her over. Gave her a good solid shove, and knocked Phoebe right over. Then he said something like, “you go back there.” Phoebe sat on the ground, and didn’t make a peep. She just looked. I was behind her, so I couldn’t see her face for the whole interaction. But she seemed, more than anything, surprised. Perhaps wondering if this was a usual form of interaction.

Anyhow, the mother asked her boy to apologize, and we wandered our separate ways without further incident. We climbed some more, and went down slides, I pushed Phoebe on the swing. Then we went home.

When we got home, I told John about our park visit. What was the first thing I told him about, do you think? I’m sure you guessed it. The shove. Even though there were more pleasant interactions, and lots of fun was had, the one brief mean act stuck with me. It was the first time that I knew of where Phoebe had been subjected to a random act of meanness. And as I mentioned the incident, Phoebe watched me very intently, her eyes huge. I realized that I was reinforcing her memory of the unpleasant incident. So I talked about all the goood things we did, and the nice kids.

This sort of thing happens so often. The one bad incident overshadowing the good ones. The one rude person making more of an impression than all the largely polite ones. I remember this a lot from working in retail. In a day when I’d help 100 moderately pleasant people, a single interaction with an asshole of a customer would tarnish my whole day. (Is it just me?)

Anyhow, it was a fun visit to the park, dammit.


12 thoughts on “pushover

  1. I think it’s natural- it’s salient, begging to have memory and distate formed. As unforunate as this is.

    I’m planning my own post of a recent playground experience tentatively titled “Beast Park”

  2. Gaaaa… I hate when that happens.

    I also used to work in retail and know all about that one hideous customer that ruined the day. Likewise when I worked as a waitress.

    Except of course it is ourselves who let these instances take priority.

    And as I mentioned the incident, Phoebe watched me very intently, her eyes huge. I realized that I was reinforcing her memory of the unpleasant incident. So I talked about all the goood things we did, and the nice kids.

    Well done! Now also do it for you.

    Adorable pics, btw… but no hair fountains!

  3. I was talking about this very thing a while back with a mutual friend of ours, and I said that you’d think we humans would have evolved in such a way as to maximize our happiness by focusing on good interactions rather than obsessing over the bad (as I tend to do also). He made the astute point that it makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint that we would have a heightened sensitivity to those who want to do us in. Which in the modern world extends to those who might not necessarily intend to club us over the head, but manage to make us feel like crap in so many other ways. Makes sense to me.

    Retail or any customer service job is the worst for this sort of thing, I think. Too many interactions per day.. chances are that one of them won’t go well.

  4. painted-
    It is aggravating. You know what, though? I’m suspicious of those overly optimistic types that always only look at the bright side…

    Yeah, it certainly is salient. I wonder if there’s even some sort of chemical/physiological reaction, too, that reinforces the bad incidents.
    Looking forward to the hideous terrors of Beast Park. (At least reading about them from a safe distance.)

    Gaaa, indeed.
    And yeah, I do try not to let the bad incidents bug me. But I’ve never been great with the whole “like water off a duck’s back” business. I’m more sponge-like.
    And you’re right, Phoebe needs the hair fountains.

    Funny. I hadn’t really thought about the evolutionary advantage. It does make some sense. (And I’m not sure if it was just my imagination, but when Phoebe and I went back to the park the next day, I thought she was a bit more wary of the other kids…)
    And can I share with you that I really, really don’t miss working in retail?

  5. Alejna, I would agree with you, if it weren’t for that thing you said to me back in 1999 that pissed me off so much it keeps me from ever wanting to agree with you.

    OK, actually, I agree. And I think about this problem a lot. There is a clear evolutionary advantage to focusing on danger and enemies–that is, if your goal is survival. If your goal is something more–say, to have a pleasant and fulfilling life–I think it becomes necessary to try to master the tendency to see the worst in every situation and try to focus on the bits that make life worth surviving for. Good for you for teaching Phoebe that.

  6. No, it’s not just you. On the other hand (and maybe this is wishful thinking), one reason why we might make such a big deal out of a negative is because we don’t encounter it often and, consequently, still are apt to be shocked and surprised when we do… which, when looking at the big picture, is not all that bad.

  7. Mean people suck.

    The obvious–and of course, most civilized–solution to this problem is to return to the park next time with a Phoebe-sized bat.

    In addition to reinforcing the good, we must also reinforce the idea that women can’t be pushed around (or over) without consequences. ;-)

  8. Gregory-
    Yeah, pleasant and fulfilling life does seem like a good goal. And I will crush anyone who interferes with that goal! (Sorry, it’s late.) (And I really, really don’t miss retail.) (Really.)

    It’s a whole new world for me, this new vulnerability.

    Maybe it’s the rarity, but it’s not as rare as I’d like. I just wish I could clear the memory of the worst encounters. I can still get worked up over things that happened over 10 years ago.

    Yeah, screw mean people. And I do plan on encouraging Phoebe to try her hand (and foot) at martial arts at some point. She won’t always be so easy to knock over. (Of course, I also want her to be generally non-violent. I think I would have felt possibly worse about the shoving incident if Phoebe had been the shover.)

  9. maybe I’m one of the overly optimistic people you’re suspicious of, but tend to remember the pleasant people in a day. At least they can overshadow the mean ones.

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