I believe I wrote a blog by this title a year or so ago. Forgive my lack of creativity here in re-using it, but as you read the following encounter we had today, you will see that it just fit.
Yesterday we went to the Y with a friend. It was kind of a bust. First, the cool indoor climbing playground was closed due to a leak, banishing all children to the “baby room”(as the older kids called it). Next, the super cool climbing tree was closed for some reason. And finally, trying to shake it off and have a good time anyway, we suited up and headed for the fun pool area. My oldest jumped in just as the lifeguard blew her whistle, announcing that the pool was closing so a daycare group could come swim.
My girls lamented the agony they were forced to endure the rest of the day. I felt a little like the parents in the movie, “One Fine Day”. Remember the scene where they are forced to put their children in a public daycare and the kids call them 3 minutes later to find out what heroine is? When I arrived to pick them up, the 5-yr-old was sitting cross-legged on the floor, inches from the door and looking forlornly out the glass. The 8-yr-old confessed that she was about to cry. Their friend actually did cry.
They were not big fans.
So today we went to the Y to swim. I wanted to redeem myself from their less than ideal experience the day before and had to promise repeatedly that they would not be placed in the childcare again. I had a couple sweet neighbor kids with me and my three in tow, so we were quite a little crew headed into the gym. I could almost hear the thoughts racing through the other mothers’ heads as we paraded by….”are all those kids hers?” (and I’d happily claim the other two, by the way).
It was bliss. Everybody was having a great time sliding down the huge waterslide, having swim races underwater, and playing in the splash pool.
Enter stage right a little girl we’ll call Polly. Probably about age four. I spotted her as trouble almost from the moment she sauntered in.
Now, please understand me. I do not say this to brag about how well-behaved my children are (‘cause Lord knows we have our fair share of “special moments”), but sometimes they seem pretty darn good in comparison. Today was one of those days. Every mother needs encouragement once in a while.
Little Polly seemed to have some sort of fixation on splashing people. Not gentle “hee hee” splashing and then moving on. No, this was more the kind of splashing that a large teenage boy would administer, which is okay if she were playing with large teenager boys. It didn’t go over so well with my 3-yr-old and the other small children playing in the kiddie area.
My daughter marched herself right over to me, and with large arm movements and animated hand gestures and shaking of her head, explained (as only a 3-yr-old can do) the great injustices going on at the kiddie pool. “That girl is splashing us in our eyes and we want her to stop. And she took my noodle!”
Now we’ve all seen the mothers who are a little hyper about their little darlings. They rush over to stand up for their child and lay down the law while their innocent baby hides behind their legs. I’ve witnessed this, and can tell you that the moment the mother’s head is turned, the “bully” among the group starts pounding his little fist into his hand, staring down the child who ratted him out.
I do not want to be that mother, nor do I want my child to be that tattletale kid.
So, with this in mind, I calmly suggested to Leighanne that she go back and ask the little girl nicely to please stop splashing her in the face. I told her to just go get another noodle from the supply closet. I enjoyed watching her walk back over to the kiddie area, her ruffles on her little swimsuit bottom bouncing up and down adorably. “I love it when kids can work things out for themselves,” I thought. Reasoning can be effective when resolving conflict even among 3-yr-olds.
The moment Leighanne sat back down on the edge of the kiddie pool, Polly was at it again, relentlessly spraying her right in the eyes with highly chlorinated water, the attack more painful because it was being inflicted by the stolen noodle. It was an ambush. The small kids around her totally at her mercy. I waited, watching Leighanne and the other children hiding their eyes and saying, “stop!” I even heard Leighanne say the word, “please”, and still the attack continued. My child looked over at my, pleading with her eyes for me to intervene.
Alright, I concluded, I must get involved. They say you should make yourself appear bigger when facing a wild animal in order to show your dominance. I was already in a swimsuit, so I had that covered since they add about 15-20 pounds instantly when you put them on. But I digress…
I approached the pool, the splashing torment still in full force.
“Um, Polly? I don’t think the other children like it when you splash them in the face. Could you please not do that anymore?”
SPLASH, SPLASH, SPLASH.
“Polly? I would like for you to stop doing that to the other kids, okay?”
SPLASH, SPLASH, SPLASH.
“Stop doing that right now.”
As if in slow motion, Polly turned toward me, hands still poised to splash her peers. The look on her face spoke volumes. If I could have been killed right then, she would have had it done without a second thought. I have never been stared down by a 4-yr-old before (well, a 4-yr-old who didn’t belong to me, anyway). In a moment of great maturity and control, I decided I wasn’t about to let her win this staring game. And so it began, she and me, locked in a battle of gazes. I began to wonder if I was allowed to blink or just not smile. Polly was out for blood.
What seemed like minutes later, this delightful little girl threw her swim noodle at me and took off for her mother (who was peacefully enjoying the hot tub 30 feet away). The look she gave me was one that rivals the look our puppy gives my children when they wake him from a nap by putting doll clothes on him.
Drop dead was pretty much the message her eyes were sending me.
Wow. Delightful little child, Polly was. I'm sure my girls will be lining up to play with her at the pool next time. And I'll be ready, too....I've been practicing my cool stare.