Sunday, February 25, 2007

Shhh, that doesn't hurt!

At the park yesterday, I was trying to study Patho while the kid was playing on the big slide. I wasn't having much success. There seems to be a cloud around this particular park - I can't relax and let the kid play here. I'm always watching the other kids, sitting on my hands, and biting my tongue to keep from yelling at kids that aren't mine to stop jumping on their little brother's head. Why I brought my notebook and that ginormous textbook I can't figure out.

This dad puts his daughter up on the swing. She's less than 6. The dad already put the under 2 yo in the baby swing and she's happy and safe. The dad pushes the swing, the girl slips out and lands flat on her back on the ground. Wham. Silence, and then a gasp and crying. Now, in my head, I'm rooting for the dad. Get down, I urge, down on your knees in the dirt right this second. He complies to a certain extent, crouching, but still looking around him, not at the baby, but for witnesses. Dude, I think, it's cool, I saw it and I've done it before. Everyone who has pushed a kid in a swing has had at least one time that they weren't ready, or you pushed too hard on the first push. Get down on the dirt and pick her up in a big hug. Now.

He ignores me, and starts talking. Uh-oh, I think, he's shaking off the signs from the catcher. Bad move, skippy. He says, Shhhhh, now. Hush, honey. You're okay, it's okay. Okay, so I get the motivation to reassure. Fine. But the hushing? At approximately 3.2 seconds post-traumatic, scary thwumk on the hard ground? Get real. That is a- not going to happen, and b- ridiculous of you to suggest.
They are about 10 feet from me for this whole encounter, and I am unfortunately blatantly staring while he continued to argue with her about the severity of her injuries and hugged her too hard (which made her cry harder and yell at him to get offa her). At one point, he started saying I'm sorry that you fell and hurt yourself. I'm so so sorry that happened. Hedging, dude. Weasel-y. Bad call.
I really don't get this impulse to blow off kids. You can't win by saying to a kid yelling that it hurts, that no, it doesn't. Um. Yes, it does. No, it doesn't. You might mean that it shouldn't, or that it's inconveinent for you to be yelling about right now, or that I don't have it in me to muster the sympathy that I should be showing you, or that I think you are a big fat baby whiner. But as the person not experiencing the pain, trauma, or discomfort, you cannot say that it does not hurt.

True, this girl made some noises like she was dying. Like she was about to fucking expire. Like Scarlett OHara when Ashley left her and the Yankees came to Tara. In my opinion, she made those noises because she doesn't feel like her dad is listening. She has learned in five short years that she has to ratchet up the drama in order to get him to engage, even though he engages poorly when he finally shows up.

The girl screeches, with raggedy breaths, I want to go home. The dad says, Well, how about this, honey, why don't we - and the girl screams it again. The dad gets annoyed. Dude, you're using too many words. I know that you're thinking out loud. I do that, too, all the time, and I know that it's annoying to many around me, including my kid. There are times when you are better off shutting your mouth and thinking. Anything you say that is not, Okay, baby, let's go get our stuff and go on home - pointless, like that Far Side cartoon about what dogs hear. blah blah blah. So your thinking time needs to be devoted to any reason why we cannot go home right now, and that reason needs to be limited to they are exterminating our house with dangerous chemicals that will affect our neurologic functions.

Turns out that the reason the dad was hedging on the pack-it-up-and-roll-out idea was that he wanted her to get back on the horse. He thinks (I saw it above his head in a big balloon) that if he lets her go home crying because of this fall, that she will always be scared of swings and this will be a weakness for the rest of her life. Been there, too, man. I totally understand. But stop it. First of all, at no point in this process have you, the adult, the one who did NOT just get hurt and scared, not once yet have you shut the fuck up and just hugged the kid. Try it, please. You have demanded that she be quiet, repeatedly commanded her to take a deep breath and calm down, and told her that it's not a lot of blood and she shouldn't be scared. Stop. Take a deep breath of your own. Sit with her. Listen to what she's saying. Look at her eyes. Let her know that what she's saying, what's happening for her is important to you. Hold your own agenda for a second - of not looking like an asshole that just pushed your kid off the swing, of making sure she doesn't develop a lifelong swing phobia, whatever.

I kept wondering if she would respond to me if I went over with water for her to wash her fingers. I kept imagining that I would do all the right things, and like the Dog Whisperer, she would instantly quiet and calm. I think that I did not go over because I didn't want to know that this movie was totally fiction.

What I did do was pack up my own books and kid after the second time he came tumbling out of the slide crying. Apparently, their clog-up-the-slide-halfway-down game had gone awry and he got a foot in the ribs. Okay, I said, matter-of-fact, Time to go. Of course, I muttered 'just like I told you it would be if you kept playing that dumb-ass game with that big kid who was jumping on his brother's head'.

It really makes me wonder what other parents think of me on the playground.


"Loving Pecola" said...

So interesting! I recently saw the movie "Little Children" and this post reminds me of it! A lot of it happens on a playground and it's like a secret world!

that big girl said...

ooo - I wonder if I can add it to my blockbuster queue.

It is a secret world! And I absolutely seem incapable of tuning it out! exhausting! :)