My lovely pal over at After Words has a great series of posts called “You Be the Parent,” and I am utterly stealing that idea. Because I need advice.
We live about a block from a park. It’s not a fabulous park, but it is very close by, and it is shady and breezy. These are key factors.
In the winter, when the weather is pleasant and it’s completely acceptable to be out in the sun at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, we go to the fabulous parks in the next neighborhood over.
In the summer (or “spring,” as my ulpan teacher insists it still is), being in an unshaded park at 3 in the afternoon will dehydrate you in mere minutes and make you want to just lie down on the tile floor until dark. Or death.
So a shady, breezy park–one of the few in this city–is a real coup. One swing, one slide, a climbing structure and some sand? Ok, good enough for 30-60 minutes of outdoor time after dinner. Because of course I’ve had to rearrange park time and dinner time to avoid the HOT HOT HOTNESS. Come July I will have to rearrange even deeper into the evening, I think.
ANYWAY. Many of the regular attendees at this park are small kids. Preschool age or less. AM has a few buddies from gan whom we see from time to time, but Miss M’s peer group is mostly absent. So I guess 4 and under is the mainstay of the crowd.
There is also this boy who often appears. He must live close by, because he wears the school shirt of the closest elementary school. He is in second or third grade. He is never accompanied. Ever. By an adult, an older sibling, or even a friend. He shows up and basically makes a pest of himself by bothering the younger kids or, in the rare event that kids his age are around, picking fights.
Everything about this kid screams bad news to me. And now my kids have noticed him and think he’s the cat’s meow. Which makes me crazy, because his behavior is a) not nice and b) not safe. He does things like jumping off the swing, which Miss M took upon herself to repeat although I explicitly told her not to. I really have nicer plans for the evening than taking her to urgent care with a sprained ankle or broken leg, you know?
I have repeatedly had conversations now with my kids about this child, about how based on what I have seen he breaks our family rules. The family rules boil down to #1 BE SAFE and #2 BE KIND.
So what do I do? Do I simply avoid this park? Do I take them but make them leave if he comes?
My avoidance of confrontation is running at about triple the normal level because I can’t have a conversation with him without sounding like a three-year-old. And there is no other adult, which of course wouldn’t improve my Hebrew either.
Culturally speaking, I think it’s perfectly acceptable that your eight year old is out and about during daylight hours. And, depending on who you are, wreaking a little havoc is ok too. (Not if you’re ME, clearly.)
(Taxman, who spends a lot less time in this park than I do, has observed the same things and is equally squicked.)
It’s going to be a long, hot summer. What would you do?