A couple weeks ago, Mabel did two awesome things. Three if you count the picture with the macaroni on her head. 1) She started walking and 2) she consolidated her naps to a once -a-day routine. Mostly. This new nap system enabled us to venture out of the house for more than 45 minutes at a time. And since she started walking, I wanted to challenge and inspire her by surrounding her with bigger kids to serve as role models and intimidate her into growing up.
We started going to a playground in DC called Stanton Park. I discovered it by rubber necking on the way home from dropping off the C.F.O. at work. It has a rubberized surface, lots of shade and other kids. Check, check and check. The kids did not seem to be overtly hitting one another or gambling either. It was perfect. This was to become our paradise. Until we get a pool membership and forget all about this hot, boring thug park.
As predicted, Mabel began to walk in public a lot more often. She stared in amazement at the older girls running around with each other, playing tag or some reasonable facsimile. She has taken a special liking to the slide, despite hitting her head almost every expedition. But her favorite thing to do is to play mow the lawn. She takes the one communal toy, which is a little car that you can push, and she leaves the safety of the rubberized surface to go wandering through the grass, generally around the fence perimeter.
Since this is the ONLY communal toy there, this has caused some controversy on a number of occasions. Because she is usually the youngest person able to operate the car/lawnmower, most parents will ask their child to let her play with it. Also because she’s the cutest thing on the planet when she looks at the toy and then at the parent of the other child with a slight question-y whine and a look of concern.
Last week, however, another girl had the toy when Mabel approached her. The other girl was probably a few months older than Mabel, but also wanted to use the car and more importantly, was “there first.” I tried to steer Mabel away. Look Bunny, the slide! But the grass was high that day. And though I’m not sure with what intent she meant this, Mabel shoved the other girl. Well, she kinda tapped her lightly, but it was the most aggression I’d ever seen out of my baby girl. It is my belief that Mabel was just trying to play with the toy, not necessarily that she wanted to teach this girl a lesson about who runs Stanton Park. After all, the girl was just standing there. The toy wasn’t being respected properly. Grass starts growing the minute you cut it.
The girl’s father told his daughter to let Mabel play with the car and thankfully didn’t press charges. In fact, he didn’t even seem upset at the tapping/shoving. I apologized and didn’t really want to allow this to happen, since what we’ve essentially taught my daughter in her first real confrontation with a child she doesn’t know is that if you shove somebody, you can get your way.
These are just the lessons you learn in Thug Park.