Monday, August 03, 2009

Strange Child's Mom

Gianna, being a social creature, has been cheerfully engaging other children in conversation in the grocery store and any other place where children happen to be. I decided that it might be a good idea to bring Gianna to places where there are other children, as she usually spends time with other adults. This isn't necessarily a "bad" thing, but having other kids to play with would be fun for her.

So, off we go. Swimming in the community pool, playing in the community playground, and just as soon as they start toddler programs up again, listening to stories at the community library. Gianna is a very happy girl when she sees kids. Her first reaction is to yell, "HI, kids! Hi litt-uh girl! Hi litt-uh boy!"

If the kids are young enough, they are equally happy to see her. If they are a bit older, say 8 or 9, they seem kind of sullen. In fact, one little girl at the Northville Trader Joes snapped, "I'm not talking to YOU," and flounced away. She, alas, matched the rest of the shoppers in that store. Northville, trust me, you are not *that* posh that you can justifiably be that snobby!

So, they're usually happy to see her as well. A pattern I'm noticing is that we will enter a community interaction site, Gianna and Strange Child/ Children spot each other, and instantly, Strange Child's mother goes into super fussy disciplinarian mode. Especially if they were there first- it almost seems like Strange Child's mother is trying to verbalize "her" unwritten rules of the playground by talking her child to death.

Enter playground. Gianna and Strange Child spot each other, and each squeal, "A litt-uh GIRL!!!" Strange Child's Mom (SCM) and I give each other the "Hi, I am way too busy with my child to converse, but hello just the same" smile and nod. Gianna instantly runs to the stairs to the playground, with Strange Child in hot pursuit. Strange Child overtakes Gianna, and stands on the stairs, instantly uncertain. Gianna starts to climb the stairs, and stands on the same step. Both children regard one another. Instantly, the moms start coaching from the sidelines.

SCM: "Strange, move out of the way! The little girl wants to slide!"

Me: "It's okay- Gianna, let the little girl go up the stairs!"

Both kids stare at each other, fascinated. One or the other of us moms goes and helps their child move more quickly up the stairs (or down the stairs) and the process repeats until one of the kids spots the plastic climbing dinosaur. We all troop over to the dinosaur, SCM fretting the whole way, "Don't run! Be careful! Mulch is slippery! Watch out!" Gianna usually trips and falls flat onto the mulch, as she gets her sporting ability from me. The mulch does its job, though, and she bounces right back up with no trouble at all. "She's okay," I assure the SCM, who is restraining herself from hovering over Gianna and picking her up.

We reach the dinosaur. Gianna picks up some mulch and offers it to the dinosaur. "Eat mutch!" she bellows, and Strange Child laughs. Strange Child does the same. SCM frets in the background, "Don't throw the mulch! Be careful! Put it down, it's icky..." At the suggestion of actually throwing the mulch, both girls instantly begin to toss mulch on the dinosaur. "Dinosaur take a bath!" Gianna yells. As it doesn't seem to be hurting anyone except the dinosaur (I see a tiny, plastic tear fall from his eye, which has been scratched out by years of use) I say nothing.

SCM, however, is irate. Didn't she just say NOT to throw mulch? And now here they are, throwing mulch. And I'm not doing ANYTHING about it! She glances between me and the kids, and finally starts chanting, "Strange, stop throwing. STOP throwing. Don't you pick that up... don't you throw- didn't you hear me? Stop! Don't throw it again. I said, 'Don't throw it again!' Put that DOWN..." while standing perfectly still.

I walk over to Gianna, which mobilizes SCM. She springs to her child, grabs their little mulch-y fists and wrings out every last bit of mulch. Gianna gives one last toss and I recommend the swings. She agrees, and we head over to the swings. SCM finishes lecturing Strange, who has already joined us in our trek to the swings. Gianna climbs on, and I start pushing her. Strange decides to lay belly first on the swing, and kick instead of being pushed. SCM wants to match- "Strange, want me to push you? Push you like the little girl? Let's swing on our bottoms. Get off and I will help you-"

Strange wants nothing to do with what we are doing. She screeches, and SCM backs off with, "Okay, let me know if you want help. I'm right here. Want help? Do you want me to push you?" The next five minutes, she reminds Strange about 45 times that she's standing right there, and can push her if she wants. Shortly, Strange gets a bit tired of this, and heads away. SCM decides it's time to leave, and grabs a now kicking and screaming Strange and heads for the gate. We watch them go.

Then, head back to the dinosaur to give it another mulch bath.