To those two mothers who sat and ignored their 5 boys swarming around the playground. Aged between 3 and 7, they teased, harassed, blocked and taunted my 6-year-old daughter as she climbed the new play equipment.
We stopped for 10 minutes to try a new playground on Saturday just after doing circus class. She was eager to use the new playground and practise her joy in climbing and strength. As soon as she started on the monkey bars, all the boys ran over and bunched up behind her. She was finding the last part difficult. They asked if she was scared (one was wearing a mask) and said how easy they found this equipment. Because she is so determined she didn’t want my help and was trying to work out how to get down herself.
She went back to try again and the boys started asking her maths questions. ” What’s 10 x 10 ? How old are you? I’m 8! I’m 9 (not true) why don’t you know that ? Are you scared? That’s funny when you’re scared. ” Were some of the comments.
The mums were nearby, talking, they yelled for their boys to stand back.
She went back to the monkey bars. The boys swarmed again. The two older ones (6 & 7) climbed up and stood behind. The three little ones (3’s and 4) climbed to the bottom and watched. More teasing and taunting. She answered back evenly and got on with her climbing. Then the comments were louder, ‘Boys like to kill Girls’
The mothers stopped talking, paused and said ‘ Boys will be boys and Girls will be girls’ to each other and continued talking.
Mine was starting to get upset. Her arms were crossed and she was talking to them, but I could hear the crack in her voice.
“Time to go!” I just wanted to get out of the park.
I could see the look on her face as we got in the car. She was upset and confused.
“Sweetie, I didn’t like those boys, did you? ”
“No mummy, they were mean.”
” At school are the boys like that?
“No, my friends are nice and kind”
She started reciting the school values and recent awards to the boys. “Jasper, he’s always kind and helpful in class. Eashan; he knows a lot and is my best friend he would never be mean to me, Alexander, for always being respectful. ” Uncannily she used the words the teachers gave the boys, the values the school stresses (btw, this is a local public school and highly multi-cultural) such as respect and co-operation.”
“What should you say to boys like that? ”
“Stop being mean.”
We talked a bit more about all the nice, friendly boys who are her friends and how they show they are good and fair.
The husband and I have talked about the deliberate and cruel sounding way kids can speak to each other. ‘Are you only reading those books?” or ‘Do you still wear nappies?” that type of talk. We do convert these comments into more helpful ones, guiding the kids to be nicer when they talk, but the conversations with the park kids were a different kind of wrong.
You can reason with kids you know, family, friends and relatives. You know these kids and the limits and expectation you have for them. We have rules about swear words, being friends and including people.
The park kids were different. It would be like a pack of boys surrounding a girl on a train station or other public space and taunting her. That would be unacceptable as adults but why do we allow this on young kids? Kids need to play appropriately in a public space.
I wish I had said something to the mother of the boys. To firstly comment that I am bringing up a strong, independent girl, but already she feels the taunting and approval of the boys behaviour by their parents. That boys should not ‘be boys’ when they say ‘Boys like to kill Girls’ that is both unacceptable and untrue. These are little boys who need to be guided and monitored.
That a 6-year-old girl, playing by herself, in a park, surrounded by 5 boys who started crowding around her is not what any parent wants to see. Tell you boys to back off, leave her alone and never tell anyone you will kill them. Play talk like that is harmful when you have no connection to the person. It may sound funny between brothers and sisters, and we all have said that to our siblings, but not when she has no friends, just her shocked mother watching.
I thought of comment an old friend with older kids once told me. She hates playgrounds. Hates having to deal with other people’s kids. I can see her point.