We were at an event last week, me and the two older kids, at which a major highlight was a giant pile of dirt and a bunch of shovels. They were told they needed to use the shovels to make a proper hill for monster trucks to attempt to drive over. Basically, my kids were in heaven.
But there were lots of kids there, kids they didn’t know, kids they sort of have met a couple of times, and not as many shovels as kids. Also, some of the shovels may have actually broken under the weight of Oliver attempting to move a mountain. Um. Sorry.
As the event went on, it was interesting to see how the different kids dealt with the scarce shovel resources. Some held on to them for dear life, some dropped them happily and moved on to the next thing. Some ran to their parents and whined for one (I say this without judgment, as I’m pretty sure mine did at some point).
I guess when the shovels couldn’t be spared, the disagreements turned to dirt and rocks. Some of the pieces of dirt were quite solid, and some of the kids were trying to roll them down the hill or move them to another part of the hill. Or just generally play with them.
I didn’t realize when I walked up to Oliver and Callum to see what they were up to that they were apparently in some sort of minor kerfuffle with another boy. Here’s my own modus operandi: if no one is crying, and no one is hurt and voices aren’t raised, I’m not going to intervene. I’m going to trust that they are either going to work it out themselves, or come and tell me that they can’t. I don’t actually think that they can learn to negotiate playground politics if I’m rushing in every time something is wrong. You might call me lazy, but I like to think I’m building resilience in my un-helicopter-y ways.
But another mother was in there. Another mother was stood there, with her hand on her hip in such a way, talking to my children. I started to approach, and then I held back. I read the situation with furrowed brow. I realized that Oliver was holding his own, and as my own tendency is to diffuse and move on rather than confront, I was interested to see where this was going to go. I monitored for a few moments, and they were totally fine, and they moved on to the next thing.
I asked Oliver what happened afterwards. He explained that him and the other boy had been arguing over the dirt or rock, and both him and the boy’s mother had insisted ‘it’s just a piece of dirt, it’s not important’ but in such a way that they weren’t agreeing with each other. Like she was mocking my kid. Which kind of made me think that (a) she was kind of acting like a 7-year-old and (b) my kid uses the arguments against him while negotiating with other people which means perhaps he does actually listen sometimes! And he was all cool telling me about it, not stressed at all, and then added “and she was kind of crazy.”
This is my child. “Oliver, you can not talk about grown ups like that!” He has no deference for his elders. He will tell us how angry we’re making him and why and really spends a lot of time just not listening to us. He talks to us without respect. He’ll walk up to a cop or a monster truck drive or just about anyone and ask about their job or why they are doing something or what’s that thing over there? So as infuriating as the first part of this paragraph can make me, the second part makes me hope that he NEVER loses his confidence, this confidence that I have never had.
I still feel intimidated when I perceive someone has some ‘importance’. I am desperately shy and quiet until I really know someone (and then, don’t worry, I can’t shut up). I probably seem stand-offish. If I do, it’s because I am crapping myself with the shy.
But my kid does not suffer in this way. And may he never. Even if it means he’s telling me what an awful person I am for making him turn the lights off and go to bed. (“Dude, if I spoke to my parents the way you speak to me, I would have been beaten.”)