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.