Teaching “excuse me” in an “outta my way!” world

As someone who didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a mother, here’s a recent situation I’d never imagined starring in: sitting at the top of a three-story, enclosed swirly slide, I watch a 6 or 7 year old boy go down on his stomach, backwards, while gripping onto the slide, disappearing from view in small increments.

Here’s the echoing conversation that ensues between us: “I’m still in here!” he says.

ME: “My daughter’s waiting for her turn to go, please.”

BOY: “OK, I’ll go down this time. But don’t come back.”

ME: “That’s not very nice. And my daughter has as much right to ride the slide as you do.”

Then Lily and I rode down to, at the end, see this boy’s face hanging upside down above us, as if trying to intimidate us. Nice.

Yes, it’s winter, and I’m home with Lily this week (her daycare is closed), so we made our first trip back to Jungle Java (which essentially has a big, indoor park) since last winter. The place has an area for kids three and younger, but Lily hasn’t been content to just play there in quite a while now – which means Mommy (or Daddy, if he’s along) shadows her as she ventures into the big kid play area, and we try our best to shield her, physically and otherwise, from the bigger, rougher kids on the equipment.

In one part of the space, there are three different-colored slides right next to each other, and Lily loves this. She walks and climbs her way to the top by herself pretty well now. But then there are often kids who are climbing up, and across, the slides, thus blocking the way, while others cut in front of Lily WHILE SHE’S SITTING AT THE TOP OF THE SLIDE, poised to go. “Excuse me,” I tell them. “my daughter was here first,” or “She waited her turn, and you should, too.”

Every once in a while, the kid in question listens, moves, and apologizes, but more often than not, the kid’s down the slide before I even finish speaking, oblivious to Lily’s and my presence, and my words. It’s survival of the fittest out there, and Lily’s a young, small girl that some kids feel they can run over and disregard, simply because physically, they can. And while this is hardly surprising or illogical, it’s nonetheless annoying.

Now, I’m not going to go on a rant about how kids have no manners today, blah blah blah. Kids are kids. Just as they’ve always lacked a sense of subtlety, they’ve lacked manners throughout history, too, as far as I can tell (and as a rule, I resist nostalgic “golden days” arguments regarding topics, since they all generally seem like nonsense upon closer inspection). But because I’m now faced with combatting, or at least responding to, other kids’ lack of manners on a regular basis, my resolve to instill manners in Lily is all the stronger.

But I have to wonder if my efforts will be able to trump what she sees happening around her. I hope so, obviously.

As a side note, the place was pleasantly calm and largely empty when we arrived, which was wonderful, and Lily then felt comfortable exploring the equipment and taking her time. But about a half hour after we arrived, truckloads of kids and their chatting, coffee-drinking parents arrived, including dozens who entered carrying gifts for a birthday party. The play equipment was soon overwhelmed with screaming, running, and sometimes-crying children of a broad range of ages, and every cafe table was peopled with adults, and I couldn’t help but wonder: Will I ever be able to embrace the cacophonous chaos of the world of parenting/children, as all these adults seem to? Will that happen as Lily gets a bit older, and I don’t have to physically shelter her quite as much? And is it OK that when places like this get packed, I start to despise them?

My ears were ringing, and my stress about Lily being plowed over every few seconds spiked, making me want to leave immediately. But I forced myself to let her play a bit longer. So we both took a breather, by way of a snack, and entered once more into the breach.

When I suggested we home shortly thereafter, though, Lily didn’t resist, making me wonder it it’s all a bit much for her at times, too.

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