I try to take Miss G to the park often. That usually means at least two of the three days that I watch her.
I feel like being a grandma in these park excursions really affords me the opportunity to sit back and observe, both Miss G and her peers. Okay, I also find myself observing the parents of those peers, most of them much younger than this grandma.
Miss G has blossomed as we have made the rounds of parks near both her home and mine. She has gone from the shy, quiet new kid at the park to the child that I have to warn not to be overbearing to the kids who are still in the reticent stages. Everyone is her friend, rather she knows them or not. She seems especially fond of kids younger than herself and I’m counting that as a good thing right now, hoping that her interest to help toddlers will transfer over to her new sister in a few months. She is still very easily led though, so while much more outgoing, I haven’t seen a huge desire in her to lead the pack of wild animals running their parents ragged around the toys.
It’s hard for her to understand why some kids don’t want to play, or why some kids are shy. In almost three-year old terms I have tried to explain to her that if she doesn’t force herself on them, or try too hard, then most kids will eventually want to play with her as much as she wants to play with them. I’ve actually seen her comprehension grow by leaps and bounds with this concept and watched her purposefully back off, play near but not in the face of, a quieter child and then realize success when her ‘friend’ suddenly warms up on their own terms. I don’t remember ever thinking about, or really noticing, all the nuances such as this between kids when I was the younger mom at the playground. I mostly remember just trying to keep my kids from killing themselves on the equipment.
Today as we approached the park she saw a few kids on the toys and a mom near their stroller. I tried to gently remind her, in a quiet voice before we got too close, to allow the kids to get comfortable with her. These were girls we hadn’t seen before. Miss G, in her wisdom apparently had already decided to bypass the kids and, as we approached the mom she said, “And what is your name?” Needless to say neither the mom nor I was expecting this. You can’t tell me that introduction wasn’t completely strategic on Miss G’s part…she knew impressing the mom would win her over and get her to encourage her kids to play.
Then, as usual, the age question came up. When mom’s of already three-year old kids, and especially four-year old kids, ask how old Miss G is and I mention that she will turn three in late August they get the funniest look of shock on their faces. She is very tall for her age. Then she begins speaking, often much more clearly and with greater detail than those older peers and the faces change again.
I’ve also come to realize that parks are pretty big social spaces for the parents, perhaps more so even than for the kids. A second mom of two joined up for play time shortly after our arrival. These moms immediately set themselves to talking over their strollers and it was clear that this meet up was more than random. I’ve seen this happen over and over in almost every park we visit. Younger moms learn each others schedules and seem to generally acknowledge that they will plan to be at the park for play time, which in reality equates to chat time for the moms.
I inevitably sit off to the side on a bench and watch and listen while thoughts of some sort of ethnographic study buzz around in my head.