21 January 2011, by Jaime Teo
We were at Ikea last month and after our meal, I brought Renee to the children’s playground which was right smack in the middle of their cafeteria.
It was a lot of fun even for me the adults minding their kids. A little like visiting Discovery Centre because the walls had fun puzzles you could push, pull, rotate or shift around; The floor had holes that were hypnotic to stare into — one had pretty lights, another a mini house, and yet another could see up another hole with the clever use of mirrors.
I had good excuse reason to be in the playground – Renee was only 8months old and just starting to crawl so I didn’t have enough confidence in her motor skills to leave her with the other kids who I’m guessing were from ages 4-8. I did try to stay out of her way(and the other kids) as she explored the movable items on the walls or crawled over the holes. Mostly though, I was just making sure she didn’t fall when she tried standing up and observing the other children as they peered into holes and tried to co-exist since they were sharing the same breathing space.
A little girl stood out — she was loud and pushed other kids out of whichever ‘station’ caught her fancy. She had a sidekick too — her younger brother who stood behind her wherever she went. He looked a little scared of her but stuck with her as she pushed her way to whatever she wanted to play. (This would be a good reason to want more than one kid — there is power in numbers at the playground =p) I felt a little guilty and small minded when the thought ‘playground bully’ crossed my mind. Here I am, a grownup putting labels on a teeny girl. I ought to be ashamed of myself!
Renee was looking into one of the lit holes in the ground when the girl came over and plonked herself on her belly beside Renee. She used her hands and covered as much of the hole as possible, trying to edge Renee out. Renee didn’t understand what that meant apparently because she continued trying to look into the hole. Then the girl said loudly (without looking at Renee), “GO AWAY!”.
I don’t think Renee understood that, nor did it register to her that the little girl was actually addressing her. I quickly picked her up and distracted her with another hole in the ground. Should I have told the little girl to share? Should I have asked the little girl where her mother was so that I could tell her mother what a bully she was? to teach her to share?
It may sound a little dramatic, but there was this pain little ache in my heart when that happened. It struck me then that I would not be able to protect my girl from many things in this world, starting from playground bullies. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to protect her from the hurt of rejection or heartache as she grows. I realized too that I wouldn’t be to protect her from the pain of failures or disappointments.
The only solution that came to me upon reflection later, was that we can only help to buid her self esteem so that she is better equipped to handle life. After that, we can only pray for the best.
I made a mental note that day to cherish all the more, the times when she would only need Mommy and Daddy for affirmation and love because it wouldn’t be long before her world would get bigger.