Feed on

Playground Tiff

So… we’ve all been home this week from Tuesday on for a JCPS mini-holiday. And Monday, the only day of school during this mini-week, proved to be something of a doozy. For starters, I messed up and had to be called at 4:00 to come get Simon from school. He was having a sleepover with Matt’s parents, and I misheard my mother-in-law to say she’d pick up Simon from school. Oops! So his friend James C.’s mom signed him out, took him to the play-ground with James, and called me to find out what had happened. Needless to say, this was less stressful for Simon than waiting in the main office, so big thanks to Linh C!

I’ve never done that before. But that was not my only “first” of the day. Also for the first time I watched Simon be on the wrong side of a playground skirmish. I’m so used to protecting him from kids that aren’t as empathetic or gentle as he is that I sometimes wondered if I’d recognize his own poor behavior when it happened. Good news! I am perfectly capable of recognizing jerky behavior in my own child.

It centered around soccer. (Of course, his whole life centers around soccer these days/weeks/months. Simon moved to a soccer goal behind the school’s mulched area to practice his penalty kicks. James C. came to play with him. Unknown to James C., Simon was reenacting some “scorcher” of a penalty kick from a distance of exactly 11 meters. In his mind, he was Frank Lampard or Robin van Persie with the entire game resting on his shoulders. So when James C went to play goalie and came out of the box, Simon was steamed and started barking orders.

“No, you can’t do that.

“No, the goalie isn’t allowed to come out like that.

“No, you have to stay in the goal.

“Just go and let me play alone.”

James was confused (he doesn’t play soccer), hurt (why was Simon being so mean to him?), and mad (he’ll show the little jerk). So he called Simon a name and stormed off.

I watched him storm off, but did not hear anything he said. Then I looked at Simon, who was rubbing his eyes and crying.

“Are you upset because James C. decided to play without you?”

“No, I wanted to play alone. He wasn’t playing right. But mama… sob… he called me a name!”

At this point, he was expecting the usual: for me to console him, say I’m sorry the other child hurt him, etc. Instead, I told him that while it’s never nice to resort to name calling, that I understood why James C. had. “You kind of had it coming, Simon. You were being bossy and mean to James C.” When he tried to explain all the soccer rules James C. was violating, I made myself clearer:

“At HYR or at Mockinbird (the two leagues he plays in), you can stick to the rules or specific drills. But when you are at school, it’s just ball; it’s not really soccer. Most of your friends don’t know all the rules, and they don’t want to sit back and watch you hog the ball. You have to share the ball here, you have to be nice, and you can’t make it into an official game. Now let’s go apologize to James C. He’s your best friend at school, you won’t see him for a few days, and I don’t want you start a long weekend on a sour note.”

Boys being boys, James C. ran up to hug Simon before Simon could even apologize. No grudges there. Nor did I ever ask Simon about what name James C. used or ask Linh to find out. From my perspective, Simon had a bad moment and reaped what he sowed.

Frankly, I was happy to see this happen. Simon can be dictatorial about ball and a terribly sore loser in games. When he gets ugly, we try to ask him to imagine how that makes us feel, but he’s six and we’re his parents. Ipso facto, he doesn’t much care. But hurting a friend’s feelings? He cares about that very much, and it offered us a lesson on empathy in which he was not the wounded party or the one needing an apology. I’m guessing—and hoping!—that Simon will be kinder at the school soccer goal going forward.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.