I’m coming to the realization that one of the worst feelings in the world is powerlessness. I felt it when we were coming back from Mexico and the mean TSA agent took my kid’s water bottle for no good reason. And the other day, I felt it at the park.
Elfie (9), Newt (almost 11), and their friend were on the three-story play structure when a group of 15-ish-year-olds invaded. The teenagers proceeded to play a game of tag that covered every surface of the place. Basically picture being confronted with a gang of ten, adult-sized people who are running, leaping, climbing, dodging, screaming, and cussing their way around a jungle gym.
The tiniest kids quickly made for the hills. Mine sort of edged away. Elfie, ever the anthropologist, hung out on a landing and observed the madness. She reported back to me later that most of them smoked (because all but one of them smelled), and the teenager everybody called “the good kid” was the best athlete.
Just as an aside, I know that all teenagers aren’t like these kids. There was actually another kid their age at the park with his little sister, and he seemed visibly disgusted by the group. I’m not one of those people who thinks the world is going to hell in a handbasket because all the youth of today play too much Grand Theft Auto and listen to rap music (although I can’t claim to enjoy rap — it mainly just hurts my head).
But some kids aren’t nice. And it was already clearly established that these people were big, strong, and not terribly concerned about the safety of others. So I just sat there. Dying to do something. Dying to walk over and say, “Hey! There are little kids here. Settle down. And watch your language.” But I was texting with my good friend at the time — who happens to be a professional mediator — and she talked me down. She told me to just let it go and leave.
Me: You’re right. It just feels like I’m telling the kids it’s okay to let a bunch of people come in and push everyone else around.
Her: It’s not okay. But you’re also teaching the kids about walking away, which sometimes is the best route. You can’t fix everybody.
So I sat there and held my tongue along with all the other parents. Including, incidentally, the teenagers’ parents (who were all there…).
My kids and their friend seemed no worse for wear. I stayed mellow and they stayed mellow. We finally went to a different section of the park and then left.
But I’m wondering:
- Would the rest of you done the same thing? Would you have said something or just walked away? Was this more than just disciplining someone else’s kids?
And because I was mulling this over for a day, my latent Psych 101 came out, and this thought popped up:
- As I was describing this scenario, did you assign different races and genders to the kids I described? In your mind how did you picture the “mean” kids, the “good” kid, and the boy with the sister?
You might be interested to know that the group of kids was white. All of them were boys except for one girl. The “good” kid, who I don’t think was with them, appeared to be East Indian. And the boy with the sister was Latino.
If I heard this story, I can’t say for sure what would’ve come to mind. I like to say I know with certainty, but I’d be lying. And that makes me ashamed and terribly sad.