Last week we met our play group at a park with a water feature for the kids. The girls love this place, with its fountain to rush under, and the terraced “stream” that runs down to a shallow concrete pond to wade in. We brought our buckets and shovels, for digging in the sand under the play structures, then for filling with water as the girls “washed” the rocks around the pond.
When String Bean needed to use the bathroom, I left the buckets in the care of one of the other moms as we headed for the restroom. A little boy, maybe seven years old, came running up behind us, to ask if we were done with our bucket, and if so, if he could use it. I told him we weren’t done, just taking a potty break, and the girls would want to keep playing with the bucket as soon as we finished in the bathroom.
“Sure, fine. But can I just use it for a few minutes, until you guys get back?” he asked. His pleading face was hard to say no to, and we were in a hurry, so I agreed, figuring if we never saw it again, it’d only be a dollar to replace it. As soon as we made it back to our play group, he recognized me. “You’re back. I’ll get it!” he yelled, rushing over to his friends, dumping out the wet sand they’d filled it with, and bringing it back to me. “We were making a sand castle inside the slide,” he said, pointing at a monstrous heap of wet sand inside the tube-shaped slide. “Now we’re going to slide through it!” And he was off and running, climbing up the play structure with his buddies.
The girls had a great time rinsing the sand off the bucket, until they noticed their matching shovel had disappeared. I followed the flow of the bricked-in stream, until I reached another young boy, about the same age, holding it over his head and waving at me. “Is this your shovel? Careful or you’ll lose it down there.” He pointed to the run-off pool at the bottom of the water feature.
Now, I don’t know who the mothers of these polite young men were, but whoever they are, I’d like to thank them. One thing I’ve noticed during our many park visits, especially during the summer, is that aggression and competition among school-age boys is rampant, and often little toddler girls get the brunt of it. I’ve seen my girls knocked down and run over. I’ve watched boys steal their toys then refuse to return them. They’ve had sand thrown at them, and water dumped on them without cause. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens often enough that whenever older boys are dominating a play structure, I steer my girls toward some activity away from them. I’m happy to say that these respectful young men-in-training have restored my faith quite a bit. Thanks, moms, whoever you are. Keep up the good work.