There was an article in the New York Times yesterday that got me thinking. Times columnist Susan Dominus had taken her 3 year old twins to the Ancient Playground in Central Park, and as they were enjoying the winter wonderland, a snowball fight broke with some of the older children. Ms. Dominus was struck by a snowball, was inscensed and demanded to know who the guilty culprits were. The tweens were ratted out, and she proceeded to berate the children’s babysitter, who eventually left the playground in shame with angry children in tow, and Ms. Dominus was left to wonder if she was a spoil-sport or the last responsible parent.
As a tween I’d been involved in my share of snowball melees, but this was in the genteel suburbs, not the hard scrabble mean streets between the gang den called The Metropolitan Museum of Art and thug training ground known as Marymount Prepatory School for Girls.
But it did raise the question of how do you handle the inevitable age conflicts at the playground? With the exception of tot lots, playgrounds are there for kids 2-12, all running pell mell. My 2 1/2 year old son often wants to play with the older kids, and I find myself torn in letting him have fun, and pulling him out of harms way. I tend to have a philosophy that he’ll learn his limitations quicker from a knock on his keaster than he would with from his dad explaining that he’s too small to play with the big kids. Of course this means occasionally plucking him out when he’s in over his head, but I think he learns from that as well.
As far as other kids behavior is concerned, unless a child is being overtly aggressive, I try not to get involved; I may be on squirrel patrol, but I’m not the playground police.