The Kindness of Strangers

NOTES FROM THE PLAYGROUND

This is my second post about social dynamics on the playgound, and it most likely won’t be my last – thus the sub-heading. Since mid-July I have been taking Charlie to the park twice a week, and in doing so I have come upon some interesting conversations. I am not referring to the babble of toddlers here, but rather to something similar, the babble of young mothers.

I would like to take credit for being a subtle eavesdropper, but going unnoticed is not entirely my doing. I have become aware that nannies, granny-nannies, and grandparents “play” within their own subgroups, and, for the most part, remain invisible to the younger mothers. The audible interactions of these socially-minded young moms reveal a lack of concern that others are privy to their conversations.

And so, on this particular day, as Charlie and I had a snack at an inadvertently well-positioned table in the park, I took advantage of my subgroup status and played undercover agent at an insider’s meeting where mean girls moms prevailed. The unfortunate outcome of this “meeting” was the labeling and ostracizing of one child by a group of mothers. The case was based on hearsay and the verdict was reached at one strident mom’s behest. There was no reasonable doubt expressed, no witnesses for the defense. For whatever reason, the support for the accusing mother was sycophantic in nature.

(Interestingly, my last post about moms at the playground involved tacit pressure applied to a mother who questioned the advisability of pre-school for her 15 month old. What is it about these folks? It all reminds me of high school. Many of these women seem to have not reached adulthood. They do not stand up for their children or themselves, nor do they challenge the intimidator. Worse, empathy, if it exists, is held hostage to their own fear.)

At this point I lost my appetite, and since Charlie had no appetite anyway, I poured the rest of his apple juice into his sippy cup, and returned him to his stroller. I left in a huff as I said out loud (hoping they would hear), “I think I’m going to be sick.” It seems that just like Blanche DuBois in that famous Tennessee Williams’ play, we cannot always depend on the kindness of strangers.

Question: Should there be anti-bullying classes for adults?

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