A friend and I brought our kids to an indoor playground over the weekend, and even though I think Noah enjoyed himself, I’m not quite sure if I’ll be bringing him there again.
I liked that the place had lots of toys for pretend play, as Noah is too small (and un-coordinated) for those huge climbing structures with slides and what-not. There were also many ride-on toys available, and as Noah loves cars, he made a beeline for them. He played with the other toys too, but would go back to the ride-ons every now and then. On one occasion, I gave him a doll as his passenger, and he was very happy with it, smiling and patting it on its head, and telling me, “Pat.”
Noah and his passenger
The indoor playground has at least six different ride-ons, a tricycle, and two skate-scooters, and at any one point, there would usually be at least one ride-on available. However, there was a boy, aged about four or five, who liked to go for whichever ride-on or even toy that Noah was playing with. Shortly after I took the above photo, he took the doll out from the car, threw it onto the floor, and proceeded to climb into the car with Noah. Now, Noah is pretty small-sized, but this car was clearly meant for only one child. When this other boy, let’s call him A, approached the car and took out the doll, I didn’t think much of it, as he had been taking away the toys that Noah was playing with every now and then, and preventing Noah from playing with some toys too. However, when he climbed into the car and started squeezing Noah to the side and grabbing the steering wheel from him, I walked over and carried Noah out of the car, because Noah was looking scared and didn’t know how to get out of the car by himself. Where were the boy’s parents? Sitting outside the play area, and playing games on their handphones. Boy A had fallen out of the same ride-on car previously, and it had landed on him. I was the one who rescued him and helped him up, while his parents didn’t even notice their child being pinned to the floor by a bright red ride-on car.
Before this incident, Noah spotted a small ball pit in the playground, and indicated that he wanted to play there. As it was empty, I brought him over and guided him into the ball pit, which can perhaps fit about three small kids quite comfortably. A few seconds later, a girl aged about five or six (let’s call her G) climbed in as well, and started throwing balls AT Noah’s head. He obviously got scared, and I told the girl that she shouldn’t be throwing balls at people. Two other boys, who looked to be of primary school age, jumped into the ball pit, and started throwing balls at each other, then at the girl, and were about to throw them at Noah too, when I stopped them. I told them that they couldn’t throw balls at people, and they just stared back at me. One even had the audacity to tell the other, “Never mind, let’s just throw!” I glared at them, and after a while, they decided to climb out and run away. Noah was by then pretty scared, and asked to come out of the ball pit. Sigh.
Pushing the doll around in a stroller instead
Playing at the train table
As this indoor playground has a few different pretend play ‘shops’, children and even adults, can hide in them, out of the staff’s view. When it was about time for us to leave, Noah walked into one such ‘shop’, the same girl, G, was standing in the corner of it. Noah was just minding his own business and playing with something else, when suddenly, she walked right up to him, and smacked his chest and back! I was horrified, and went in immediately to hug Noah. I didn’t even bother to ask her why she hit him, because I didn’t think there could possibly be any good reason for her to do so, and scolded her. What made me angrier was that she denied hitting him, and when I informed her that I was standing right outside and saw her hitting him, she defiantly said, “I do slowly only.” Hello, I don’t care if you can’t distinguish between ‘slowly’ and ‘softly’ or ‘gently’. Hitting is hitting, no matter how ‘slowly’ you do it. I asked her where her mum was, and she just kept telling me, “I only do slowly.” I gave up and told her that she cannot hit people, and she said, “Ya.” She didn’t apologise, and I didn’t bother trying to get her to apologise, because even if she did, I know she wouldn’t have meant it at all.
I decided that I didn’t pay $16 for my son to be bullied, and since it was time to go anyway, I picked him up and carried him out. On our way out, I told the staff at the counter that the girl smacked Noah for no apparent reason, and they told me that she was a regular at their playground, so they would speak to her father about it, who was at that time obliviously walking around outside the playground, instead of watching his daughter. I felt like a student complaining to the teacher, but at that moment, I was so mad that I needed to tell someone about it. When I met up with C after that, he said that I should have spoken directly to her father instead, because the staff won’t really tell him off, because they are running a business, and need him and his daughter as customers. Now why didn’t I think of that?
I asked C if I was being an over-protective parent, and if I should have let Noah sort it out on his own, but we agreed that he was too young and too mild-mannered to know how to stand up for himself. (I wrote in a previous post about how another child snatched something away from him.) I don’t know why Noah was picked on by the kids, but I’m guessing it’s because he was the youngest there, and the smallest in size too. What really bothered me was that in all three instances, Noah did not provoke them in any way (that I could tell), and was just playing by himself.
I know that indoor playgrounds are full of kids who might not know how to share or wait their turn yet, but I also think that since this is a parent-accompanied playground, parents should be at least watching their children, and step in when their child misbehaves. This indoor playground has too many ‘blind spots’, and it doesn’t help if parents don’t even bother to check on their kids once in a while. I know that I can’t protect Noah forever, and that avoiding indoor playgrounds is definitely not the solution. I guess we really have to teach him how to tell the other kids to ‘wait’, and to say ‘stop’ if they are throwing things at him or hitting him.
What would you have done, if you were in my position? How do you teach your children to stand up for themselves?
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