(First published on The Contented Calf website on Wednesday 11th May 2011.)
We all remember how difficult it was to navigate our way around the social “do’s and don’ts” of the playground when we were young, don't we? The playground was a tough place to be. You were judged on a daily basis as to whether you fitted in, what kind of girl/boy you were, were you cool enough to play with? And many of judgements were made on the basis of what kind of a person you looked like.
But I’m slowly realising that re-entering the playground as a parent, these judgements are being made all over again. Indeed, this happened to us just last weekend!
Hubby and I took BF to the local park.
As she’s getting older she’s getting much more confident at the park. So everything’s got to be bigger and better. The baby swings have been shunned for the “big girl swings” – sometimes swung on via Mummy’s lap, sometimes by “self”.
Now both climbing up and sliding down of the little slide has been mastered, we’ve moved on to the helter-skelter style slide.
And it was here that was the scene of the alleged parental crime.
We’ve had glorious weather of late, with seemingly endless days of sunshine – well, at least where we live. But being Spring, the odd downpour is obviously inevitable and as such little puddles form throughout the playground. BF’s quite a tomboy and doesn’t let a little damp and dirt deter her, so at times she does rock the ‘street urchin’ look.
Unbeknown to us, atop the helter-skelter slide was a fairly sizeable puddle. So when BF appeared at the bottom of the slide, delighted at her new fun find and desperate for another go, she had a dirty wet streak down the front of one leg of her tights and a big damp patch on the front of her skirt. (The perils of sliding down “on tummy”!)
So we peered up to the top of the slide and saw said puddle.
Unfazed by her slightly sodden atire and super eager for another go, BF ran to the steps and pushed a slightly older little girl out of her way.
I duly told her off, told her she should wait her turn and apologised to the relevant Dad. (Felt I’d done the right thing there.)
Despite being older, the little girl seemed a more timid and not so keen to climb up, so The Dad said it was OK for BF to go first.
Up she climbed, slowly, with the little girl and her brother behind. And then down they came, one after the other, The Dad having to encourage his daughter to wait for BF to slide down before starting herself. (This made me feel a bit better about BF barging her way to the steps – each daughter’s over-eagerness and lack of manners cancelling the other out. Great.)
After another couple of goes for all the kids, there was a slight hubbub. BF came down OK, but the little girl seemed to be a bit upset. There was mention of a banged head, so I assumed this to the problem. And The Dad ended up lifting her off the slide to comfort her. Whether she then mentioned being wet, or whether he just saw some damp patches on her clothes, I don’t know.
But he then turned to hubby and I and said “I think your little girl’s had an accident up there”, nodding at BF’s wet clothes.
“No, no” we replied. “There’s a puddle at the top.”
“Yes......” replied The Dad, meaning ‘I don’t believe you. Your child is scruffy and dirty, and has obviously wet herself and left a puddle of her wee at the top of the slide. Your kind of parent disgusts me.’
And half to his little girl and half for our benefit “We’ll have to go home to change”.
And off they went!
Hubby and I were left speechless! Other than her wet clothes (remember, The Dad, it is Spring-time, these do exist) what made him think that we were the type of parents who’d let their child wet themselves, leave a wee puddle and not clear it up!?
Did we look like that kind of couple?
What does that kind of couple even look like?
After a couple more slides, we had to admit that our spirits were dampened as well as BF’s clothes (though not with wee!), and anyway it was nearly tea-time, so we headed home. We’re still bemused by the whole affair. I realised it left me with that same sense of injustice that you felt as a child when someone decided something about you in the playground, which just wasn’t true. But I guess that’s just politics.
As ever, with love from our family to yours,