Where Did The Village Go?

Last week Maya started kindergarten . It went well. She has some friends in her class from pre k, her teacher seems very competant (she has 22 4-5 year olds to wrangle all on her own, no easy task), she had chicken and rice for lunch. She found the bathroom ok. All important things.

After school we went to the playground with some of her buddies . She was walking around with one of her girlfriends, doing girly things like talking and giggling, when at some point some boys became involved in their play. The boys wanted to be the bad guys. ( Do five year old boys know any other games??) Suddenly I look over and this one boy has wrapped his arms around Maya and is holding her down. Maya tells him to let go. He pulls on her ( not in a mean way really, he still thinks it is part of the game. He has not noticed that she is not having any fun.) Maya pushes him away. ( It was a good push, he went far) He makes to hit her. She throws a front kick.

This is when I step in. I give the boy a stern talking to, ordering him to please keep his hands off of my child. He says she kicked him. I point out that she only did that because he wouldn't let go. He says but we were playing bad guys. I say that it fine to play bad guys but that you have to keep your hands to yourself . Also that you have to listen when someone says stop. And that the next time he "bad guys" Maya he is going to get a knife hand to the throat. (ok I didn't say that part...but it is true)

Then I notice that his mom is standing next to me. Oops. I immediately apologize and say that I would not have said all that if I had seen her there. She says it is no problem, that she was about to tell him the same thing. We exchange names and shake hands.  Maya runs off in one direction and the boy flies off in the other.  Everything is cool.

Later, while we walk home, I think about the whole exchange. There was nothing wrong with me telling her son to take his hands off of my daughter so why was I so quick to apologize? The playground is the perfect environment for zone defense, whatever kid is in my line of sight is my responsibility. What ever happened to "it takes a village"?

If a tiny toddler falls down in front of them, most parents would be quick to help him up. But this is as far as group parenting goes nowadays. Two kids are fighting? Not my problem unless one of them is my kid. A little girl is being mean? We look around for her mom and then shake our heads in disgust when we find her across the playground, nose buried in her smartphone. We can't possibly help someone else's kid, what if we do it wrong? What if we accidentally say something inappropriate? And forget about discipline. We will stand there and let two boys pummel each other into a bloody mess before we risk pissing off someone else' mom by telling them to stop.

Well, not all of us. If the parent in question is nowhere in sight, both Matthew and I have no problem intervening in playground drama. Perhaps this is because we are teachers. But I would hope that someone else would do the same for me. If some bully is picking on Maya and I don't see it, I would hope some other grownup would help her. And if she is the bully, I have no problem with another mommy telling her to keep her hands to herself.  After all, we are all in this together. We all have the same job, to teach our children to be caring, compassionate adults, adults who are capable of living and working with others. You may have bottle-fed and I used my boob but I am sure we both think biting is wrong.

This is one of the saddest results of all the "mommy wars". We are now so determined to be right (and so afraid to be wrong) that we have forgotten that we all have the same goals. Healthy children. Happy children.  Children who know how to behave in public. Children who know they are loved. We have forgotten how to work together.

I am not saying everyone out there would mother Maya exactly the way I would.  I am saying that as long as it comes from a place of love, it does not matter.

It is lonely up there, mama. Why don't you climb down from your soapbox and have a cup of coffee with us. We'll all watch the playground together.


  1. Love it. I'm that scaredy cat mom sometimes that doesn't say anything for fear of offending a parent, unless someone is hurting my kid, then gloves are off kiddo. I won't unleash the few yellow belt moves I know, but I am a mamma bear ready to step in for my babies.


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