After Matthew patiently tolerated how long I took to dig through the cards at Hallmark (I could easily blow an hour there), we made our way to the play area. I left the stroller by the entrance and took off our shoes. The play area was really crowded, and Matthew seemed hesitant. He was barely entering the play area and looked nervous. After a little encouragement, he cautiously began exploring. He didn't like it if we were too far apart, so I pretty much hovered over him and probably looked like a really obnoxious helicopter parent.
After about 10 minutes, Matthew seemed more relaxed and started to enjoy himself. He especially liked the slide. The first several times, he couldn't make it up the steps by himself. The more he went down the slide though, the more hyper and excited he got. Pretty soon, he was having a blast and climbing the steps with little to no assistance. He was laughing, and I was able to back off a little.
Matthew had been taking turns with several other kids playing with the slide, but we soon found ourselves with the slide all to ourselves. Matthew would climb the steps, go down the slide, and run back to the steps, laughing and clapping.
Soon, another kid ran over to the slide. He looked like he was about 7 years old and beyond the maximum height that was allowed for kids in the play area. He also had sneakers on, which was a no-no.
I wouldn't have minded his presence, but he went to the top of the slide where Matthew was sitting. The kid angrily yelled, "GO!" and shoved Matthew really hard down the slide. Before I even had time to react, I was at least able to see that Matthew was okay. He went down the slide normally and wasn't crying, but he did look really surprised.
"Do not EVER touch him or yell at him AGAIN." I didn't yell, but it was obvious I was livid. The kid looked at me like I was a complete moron. A woman walked over, who I assumed was the kid's mom. I figured she would apologize and scold her kid.
There was no apology, but she did firmly tell her kid to be careful. I appreciated that. Then, in a very sarcastic tone, she said, "The babies are special," before walking away. She didn't say a word to me.
A little girl had climbed up the the slide and was about to go down. The boy once again yelled, "GO!" and pushed her down the slide. We'd been in the play area for over half an hour, so I decided it was time for us to just go. Fuming, I picked up Matthew, and we left the play area to put on our shoes.
While I was strapping Matthew into his stroller, tears filled my eyes. When I was in 1st grade, I was playing outside at recess on the big play structure known as the deck. There were poles that you could slide down to get off the deck. I reached out for a pole one day to go down but apparently wasn't fast enough. A boy came up behind me, yelled, "GO!", and pushed me off the deck. I fell down to the ground. My recently skinned knees that were almost healed were ripped back open.
Nobody saw it happen. I got up, quietly crying, and walked into the school to go to the office to find someone to help clean up my knees. My teacher was called to the office, and when it was just the two of us, she scolded me for playing too rough. I truly believe that my 1st grade teacher did not like me.
Seeing that boy be mean to Matthew made me think back to my childhood. I endured years of bullying. One of my biggest fears for Matthew is that he gets subjected to the kind of bullying I experienced. One of the most important things for Matthew to learn is kindness. I think the only thing that would break my heart more than kids bullying him would be if he were a bully. I refuse to let that happen.
I hope childhood years are kinder to Matthew than they were to me. At least I always had a good home and family. I promise he will always have that.