We spend a fair amount of time at the playgrounds on the bay near our home. I have had two disconcerting experiences there as of late. The first was with a boy much larger than Nathan, but also four and a half years old. This boy, Jack, was accompanied by his grandmother. At first I appreciated the way she hung back a little giving the boy some space to be a kid and do his own thing.
As yet, Nathan is not the most gracious of playmates on the playground. I have confidence he will find his way to a reasonable comfort zone at some point hopefully sooner than later. Jack on the other hand, may never find that reasonable zone. He was intimidating both in size and demeanor and Nathan was not the least bit shy in putting off his rather aggressive advances to play. I believe Nathan's exact response was loud, "No, I don't want to play with him!" followed by running far and fast. Jack was not to be dissuaded by such subtlety, he followed faster and more furiously. This dance continued through several similar exchanges. I was stupidly feeling embarrassed about Nathan's lack of social graces to this child cretin and the feelings of the apathetic old woman that followed twenty paces behind him. Finally, the boys were on either side of me, I was facing Jack, at which time he spat the words at me, "if he's not going to be my friend, I am going to punch him in the face!" Really? Now, I can feel some empathy for this kid, who is clearly having his own trouble on the playground and probably in life and could use some strong guidance, but at the time I wanted to throttle the little bastard.
As I followed Nathan's last departure from him, I was much more clear on two things: One, I need to be more in tune to the difference of social immaturity and the clarity of intuition and sensitivity, and two, how early and deep the tendencies of an a-hole can be set.
The second of the disconcerting experiences at the playground occurred today, Sunday, a big day at the bay. The playgrounds were full, there were birthdays, company parties and church socials all advertised along the way to our usual spot. Nathan noticed several birthday parties going on once we arrived at our destination and first seemed a little perplexed as to why we were not joining in any of the celebrations or partaking of any of the cake all around us. He also put up his best argument yet for ice cream from the strolling ice cream man, but I digress.
One of the birthday parties in the vicinity was clearly a princess party complete with a Disney princess themed jumpy jump, princess balloons and what I thought was even an actual live character dressed as Belle of Beauty and the Beast (yes, I had to look it up, I knew she had a name.) Upon closer observation, it seemed the character was not quite adult sized, though she was about the size of the party goers, who I would place at 8-10 years old--seemed sort of old for a jumpy jump, but what do I know? Anyway, my next assumption was that maybe the birthday girl had dressed up as Belle for the big event...with my next observation, that did not seem likely. Belle was being strung up between two palm trees. I could not believe my eyes as she bobbed and swayed in the breeze against the clumsy manipulations of the male party hosts.
I have nothing but sympathy for my friends with daughters that have to deal with the whole princess/barbie thing--but this was downright disturbing. I tried to avert my eyes, I wanted to be proved wrong, proved unfair, how little faith I had in my fellow mother. Unfortunately, this time, that was not to be the case. As soon as Belle was positioned just so, with just the right amount of tension in her noose, baseball bats were disseminated to the waiting mob and the clobbering of the princess with the porcelain face and the flowing yellow gown commenced.
I wondered, as I steered Nathan from the festivities, how many of them or their younger sisters would be dressing as that same princess in a few weeks, that same princess that got her face smashed in today, also in favor of a little candy.