The Playground


     The fourth day of school, and I’m already visiting the principal’s office with my son.  Is it really gonna be THAT kind of a year?! Apparently, there was an “incident” on the playground yesterday, and my son ended up getting hurt. Luckily, he’s o.k., but ever since then, I have been so aggravated about the lack of supervision on the playground. (My daughter also had some sort of “incident” last year in kindergarten where she was pushed to the ground by a group of boys.)  It seems to me that the playground is where all bad things tend to go down.  It’s where bullying takes place, where self-esteem goes sour, and where kids often get hurt, both physically and emotionally.    

     Yesterday after lunchtime, I received a call from the school nurse that started out by saying, “Don’t worry. Everything is fine.”  Now, why in the world do they preface it with a line like that?  If everything was fine, then I wouldn’t be getting a freaking phone call, would I? Anyway, the nurse could not have been more vague in her description of what had happened to my son.  All I could get out of her was that my son was playing with another boy, who got very “excited” and scratched my son.  Um, excuse me?!  I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically scratch someone when I’m excited.  I tried to pump her for more information, but it was obvious that she was afraid to say too much.  It was very clear to me that she was trying to carefully choose her words. She reassured me that the other “excited” child had been to the principal’s office and that a phone call had been made to his mom. And then she must’ve told me three different times that she’d cleaned up the blood from his face and disinfected the cuts.  I kinda felt bad for the poor woman, because I guess she didn’t really know how much she should or shouldn’t say, thanks to all the lawsuit-happy parents out there.  I asked several times if he was upset, and she said no and that he was already back in his classroom.  She even offered to go get him from class so that I could talk to him on the phone.  It was such an odd suggestion to me, that I actually kind of chuckled at the thought of it (totally inappropriate, I know, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of pulling my previously freaked out son from his classroom once he’d already calmed down to go all the way down to the nurse’s office to talk to his mom on the phone.)  Needless to say, I politely declined the offer and said I’d talk to him after school.

     I spent the remainder of the afternoon wondering what my son’s face would look like when I picked him up from school.  Would he look like he’d been attacked by a cougar or scratched by a kitten? When he finally emerged into the mob of waiting parents, he appeared to be as happy as a clam and only had two medium-sized scratches just below his eye.  I tried to ask him about the playground incident, but as is usually the case with him, I got a whole lotta nothing.  I did, however, get bombarded by three of his little girlfriends who were more than willing to give me a recap of what went down.  Of course, they had a completely different version of the story that involved punching.  My head was spinning, and since I still didn’t know what the hell had really happened, I decided to find his teacher.  Naturally, he’d had a substitute yesterday, who didn’t really know anything more than I did, so I then chose to visit the principal, herself.  And all I really got out of her was that the kids were all playing too rough and the other boy got a little out of control.  I so badly wanted to scream, “Isn’t ANYBODY watching these kids out on the playground??!!”  My husband and I both talked to my son individually last night about appropriate behavior and keeping our hands to ourselves.  We also talked to him about his right to find an adult in charge if someone isn’t treating him nicely at recess.  Since we still didn’t REALLY know what happened, we tried to cover all bases, whether he was the one doing the teasing or whether someone else was picking on him.  

     Whatever the case, it seems very obvious to me that our playgrounds need WAY more adult supervision.  Kids should be able to let loose and have fun for that small window of playtime without feeling threatened or mistreated by other kids.  They should feel safe to be themselves and not worry about getting hurt.  And if they do get hurt, an adult should be able to report the details of the situation without fear of getting slapped with a lawsuit for simply telling the truth. Playgrounds should not be venues for pint-sized fight clubs. And as much as I love Brad Pitt, I just personally don’t want my kids to become street fighters.  So, unless parents are cool with their offspring entering into the UFC ring someday, then somebody better figure out a way to get a handle on this situation pronto.


12 Responses

  1. Bless you. Tough situation. My gut reaction would be – blooding boiling mad at the little punk who hurt my baby! But stuff happens.
    Bravo – you handled it very well!

    • Thank you! It’s hard for me to dismiss the fact that boys will be boys and that my son & his friends often get very handsy when they play. Boys are just more physical — that’s how they communicate w/each other. Since I don’t have a clear-cut story, I just had to remind him how he should behave, whether he’s the instigator or the victim. It was a tough day!

  2. Schools can be SO infuriating! In 1st grade DD was being bullied on the bus and at school by a much older, but in the same grade, child. The teachers, principal, councilors, and bus driver were so busy explaining how ‘troubled’ this child was and how she came from a bad home. I was very “why should I give a sh!t?! She’s threatening to punch my kid who’s 2 years younger! Why aren’t you looking out for HER?!” I hate the excuses and sheer laziness of schools anymore. We pay outrageous out of pocket fees, taxes, and donations of other things to the schools, and they still are understaffed and under funded. When there aren’t enough people to keep our kids safe in ‘common’ areas there’s a problem. These things happen on the school’s clock.

    • That is terrible that your child was clearly the victim, yet they were using the excuse of the other kid having “issues.” That’s such a cop out! I agree — why can’t all the craploads of taxes that we shell out help to cover the IMPORTANT & NECESSARY things that schools need, like supervision on the playground?! It’s really frustrating!

  3. I really like your approach of covering all your bases. I’m going to remember this for later… my girls are still very young and I just cringe thinking about the school days.

    • Thank you — it’s so hard to know what REALLY happens when they’re not under your watchful eye. Kids will be kids, and as much as I’d like to think they are, I know my kids are by no means perfect.

  4. Playgrounds…it’s like a watering hole regardless of where it’s located. The women/men all gather around and talk about their lives…blah-blah-blah. Some teachers take this time to read a book, or catch up on e-mails on their phones while they sit their under a tree in their chair while the kids sorta supervise themselves and take other kids down. Unless someone is seriously injured, the pushing ,shoving and hitting goes unnoticed. This is the same for private playgrounds. I’ve noticed that the moms/dads tend to stand/sit together and just yak away about their lives or how much better of a job their method of parenting is going. Meanwhile, their sweet little Johnny is pushing, punching, bullying & scaring the others. Nothing phases the “meeting of the minds” group until a child starts to scream bloody murder and/or comes running with blood drawn. Playgrounds…they really are just an Unsupervised Battleground. It’s where good kids and trouble makers are sorted out quickly!

    • So so true! It’s amazing how schools can preach all day long about good manners & treating others with respect in the classroom, but then they just let ’em loose and allow them to fend for themselves out on that playground. They are little kids, & kids will be kids! They need to carrying out this lesson on the playground too.

  5. Coming from the perspective of a playground supervisor (done that for years as a special ed para), I can say it’s not the easiest job. Looks easy, yes. Not always easy to tell from a distance what actually happened. You can watch like a hawk and it doesn’t matter- you WILL miss stuff.

    Little boys do tend to be a lot more physical, some more than others. They jump on each other, grab sticks/pinecones/ etc and hurl them around, etc. You can tell them to stop, and they do-until they find a place out of your line of sight 5 seconds later and start up again.

    Little people are running up and talking to you, tattling that so-and-so looked at them wrong, and then there’s the never ending ‘must have an ice pack because I bumped my knee’ kids.

    When something goes down, all the kids jump in with their ‘version’ of the story. It’s impossible to keep up with all of it, unless there are more adults out there, which often there aren’t.

    Our playgrounds also had wildlife like deer or bears wandering through just to make things interesting.

    I’d talk to your son’s teacher, who perhaps can sit down with the group of rough playing boys, and issue an ultimatum to all of them-NO rough play at recess, or they will have to spend it inside for a few days. That usually clears it up pretty quick, especially if the incident is unclear re: who is at fault.

    • Thanks for your comments! It’s good to hear from the perspective of someone who’s actually been “on the battleground.” I used to be a teacher (pre-kids), and I also had to do lunch duty. I know exactly what you mean about the difficulty of keeping track of who’s doing what & where. I even thought back then that there were never nearly enough adults out there to supervise ALL those kids. You’re right, it’s impossible to be aware of everything that’s going on. That’s why they need more adult bodies out there — the more eyes, the better. I guess the principal of my son’s school had a talk with the kids about appropriate playground behavior, which is good, but I think there needs to be a bigger adult force outside at recess to reinforce these rules. These kids are only 6 & 7 years old and are just getting used to the whole all-day-of-school setting. It’s a big adjustment for them. Thanks again for your input!

  6. Ugggh…..Playgrounds are the WORST! And I do love how they start every phone call with, “Everything is fine, but…” I used to get into on the playground when I was a kid, too, but it’s different today (not to sound cliche) REALLY different. If a kid “doesn’t fit” they are definitely targeted like we never saw as kids. I hope your kids are OK, and I hope you win the supervision battle.

  7. I cannot believe how much teachers and principles let get away. My friends son was horribly bullied and she went to the principle and the Super Intendent. Both failed to really care.
    My daughter last year was constantly harrassed by two little boys and her teacher would complain to me.

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