Our mission this summer has been to visit as many playground parks as possible. I wanted Sugar Bear to experience them all, so that we could find a favorite. It has been fun. Oddly enough, along the way, I have learned a great deal about myself. I certainly didn't expect to spend so much time analyzing my "mama bear instincts".
I have come to realize that I have many hang ups regarding taking my daughter out into the world, and letting her socialize with strangers. I have a few social issues myself, but I suppose I didn't think I would carry them over in this way. I worry that I will somehow impose my own fears onto her, so I find myself really having to stand back and observe.
Personally, I am not a "meeter". I don't like meeting new people all that much, and I certainly don't do it on my own accord. Once I get to know someone, I am considerably social, but if it were up to me, I am not sure I'd seek out new friends. I am not all that certain where this comes from, or exactly when it began. I don't recall being this way as a child, nor young adult. It is no secret that I am a homebody these days, but when exactly did I become so uneasy with putting myself out there?
By far, the most nerve racking part of accompanying my daughter to a playground is watching her put herself out there to other children. I am like a nervous mother hen. I hoover, and wring my hands, and worry that she will be rejected. Watching her ease up to another child and say, "HI! I'm Sugar Bear (okay...so she actually uses her real name)!" for the first time literally made me nauseous. My thoughts raced. Please let the child acknowledge her....please let the child be nice to her....please let her feel confident and happy with this meeting! The anxiety I felt was overwhelming. I had to resist the urge to run to her, hear every word, and assure her if she was not accepted. Indeed that first time she was ignored....she was not successful, and it broke my heart. She looked confused as the child just skipped away without saying a word. I bit my nails as she turned to me. Amazingly enough she said, "I talk to a friend mama!" and happily ran off to go slide. Could it be, that just simply having the courage to just introduce herself was victory enough?
As the summer progressed, she continued to try to interact with these strange children, and I have continued to stand in angst. Some children have smiled, some have spoke back kindly proceeding to play with her. Some however, have been mean. OH MY....how does a mother deal with this? The three year old girl, who won't let my daughter go up the ladder. The four year old boy that runs around calling her a "BABY". The Spanish speaking child who sticks her tongue out and yells, "bawlk, bawlk, bawlk!" at her (yes...I do believe she was pretending to be a chicken....but I am not certain, nor was Sugar Bear). What does a mother do? What lesson is to be learned? Sugar Bear usually looks at them with confusion, but doesn't slink away. She stands her ground and just watches them. I fight the urge...I stand there arguing with myself to go or not to go...to help or not to help.....it is so troubling. Unless things get physical, I try to very hard to let her deal with it at the time, then as we travel home, I ask her about her play. I mention the child that was unkind, and feel her out. Surprisingly, Sugar is rarely worried about these incidents. If only mommy could relax.....our time at the park would be more enjoyable.
It is a constant battle in my mind as we drive to a playground park. Half of me hopes no one will be there, so that we have it all to ourselves. I enjoy not having to stress over what the other children are doing and saying to my girl. The other half of me hopes other children will be there, so that my girl has someone to play with. It is undeniable that she enjoys herself so much more when there is another child to play with. At her age, this play consists of "follow me" or "I'll follow you", but none the less, she loves it. Isn't that the point...for Sugar Bear to have fun? Why do I set myself up for so much anxiety? Not one time, has she been upset by another child. Not once has she been emotionally damaged by another child. Why then, do I get so worked up? It is clearly my issue, but am I the only one? Am I the only mother who struggles to maintain her sanity as her child puts them self out there to be accepted? Will this get easier or harder as she grows?
Regardless of my inner turmoil, Sugar Bear has had a wonderful summer so far. I am not sure we have found a favorite playground, but we have ruled out several due to safety issues. These pictures are actually from mid-April, at a county park. This particular day was possibly the second time she introduced herself to another child. This little girl wanted none of her, but Sugar was persistent, and just followed her around. Her mother said her name was Abby, so Sugar Bear just trailed along saying, "Happy....what you doing happy?" I had to tell her 400 times that her name was Abby, but she kept right on saying "Happy". They may have not played together exactly, but there were a few moments of interaction, and it was those moments that meant the world to her. She spoke of her new friend for weeks. I suppose that is what it is all about, right?
Who knows what was said in the moment I snapped that picture...but I think it is priceless! :)