This last weekend I had Billy alone because Chris went to an event out of town. On Sunday afternoon, the weather was nice with an overcast sky and some sun too and I thought it was a perfect day for a park outing.
So off we went, and upon seeing the playground in the distance, his face lit up.
At 17 months old, he’s smaller and younger than most of the kids that were there. Most were in the 4-9 range, and highly rambunctious, running through all the areas chasing each other in a tag game, and it was a job to protect him from the kids running in every direction.
We found some sanctuary in the baby swing area, where he enjoys swinging. He loved watching the other kids a lot, who themselves were fascinated in their own activities. But we haven’t really taken him to the park more than half a dozen times so watching other kids play is still exciting and new for him.
At some point one of the older kids was chasing someone and in his path and was about to run Billy over. I held out my arm to block him, knowing this was going to be a hit at the speed of his run since we didn’t have time to move and my shouting “watch it!” didn’t seem to affect him. He came crashing into my arm-and somehow that startled Billy though it didn’t touch him. Billy lost his balance and started crying. The kid seemed horrified and apologized as if he was going to be in big trouble. I didn’t want him to feel bad at all – so I ruffled his hair and said “hey it’s fine sweetheart – he’s just very young still” – and his mother rushed up to us.
Seeing her I thought “Oh no – is she going to yell at me thinking I hit her kid?” Fortunately she noticed what happened and she said “I’m really sorry” and turning to him, asked him if he apologized. I told her it was fine, he apologized, but all is fine – just kids being kids.
Love him and leave him
At that point it seemed that Billy just wanted to go. I started to walk out of the playground with him, holding his hand. As he held my hand, a little girl, maybe a year older than him, rushed up and grabbed him by the arm. She gave him an aggressive hug around his middle. He looked at me confused and offered her a blank look. She purposefully grabbed him and said “Come on papa.” I smirked thinking, “okay now.” What commenced was an awkward interplay where she tried desperately to get him to act the part of “boyfriend” by trying to place his arm around her, but this didn’t quite turn out the way she wanted. They did end up picking leaves off of bushes together and she was okay with this until she experienced another bout of needing affection from him. It wasn’t so much that he was standoffish as he wasn’t sure what she wanted exactly. Suddenly her brother and sister rushed up to us and grabbed her. “We’re leaving!” they exclaimed. She sauntered off and waved at him. He watched her go and suddenly whined. I guess he experienced his first love you and leave you from a girl.
Plenty of fish in the sea
No matter however, because immediately following her exit another family walked in, two older boys and a little girl just a few months older than Billy. He watched as she walked by giving him a stink face scowl. Not to be deterred by that expression, he decided she was his new friend now. And apparently his very recent ex-girlfriend had taught him how to be a little more assertive. Having a little more cool in him though, he walked a few paces away and just waddled beside her, giving her space. She pretended he wasn’t there.
Meanwhile her mom and I started talking. What a nice mom! She was very sweet and down to earth. She was laughing and enjoying the exchange and complimenting Billy’s cuteness – which of course always makes me happy. Billy went all the way up the jungle gym with the girl despite never doing this before. I went with him and helped him as other kids were still running in all directions and close to hitting him a lot. Then the little girl went back down. She knew how to go down the steps but he didn’t so I had to help him down the steps. I think at this point he felt he lost his swagger with her, since his mom (me) had to help with the steps. Perhaps it was a little frustrating for him not to be able to impress his new girlfriend. The ex seemed impressed just by him sitting there. This one made him work. Ah women!
He walked away looking a little dejected and pondering his fate with these recent dates.
Not for long though because he wanted to go on the swing again. I took him on the swing and he enjoyed getting more breeze on his face for a few minutes. We had now been at the park for nearly two hours! For a 17 month old, it was a lot. But I did want him to enjoy and experience the scene and see other kids for a while. It was getting late and I imagined his father was home now waiting for us. I picked him up and he started screaming and crying. But it was time – and I had to feed and change him. He didn’t bother mustering up any dignity as he screamed all the way to the car. Whimpering on the drive all the way home, once he saw his papa, he squealed and the glee was back.
I wish I had taken the mom’s contact info. She was so nice and I’m hoping I’ll see her again one day. We actually had a talk that wouldn’t be defined as “small talk” at all – even though we just met. We talked jobs, kids’ genders, family, teaching languages to kids, the area we lived in, even miscarriages. All in just a few minutes.
Hope you enjoyed reading Billy at the Playground. Do you like watching the interplay between your small children and other kids in public playgrounds and parks?