Despite working in a daycare when I was 15 years old, I feel like I haven’t spent too much time around kids. Probably because that was an absolute shit job and I try to block it from memory. Up until now, this hasn’t affected my day-to-day life. Kids and I have coexisted but our paths never really crossed. But like I said, up until now. Our apartment building is rife with kids and four days per week I also find myself pushing lil Samara to one of NYC’s finest playgrounds. Really, no sarcasm there – NYC has GREAT playgrounds. The main issue is that we see other kids there.
We are going to mess up your day. And your kid’s day.
I generally have no idea what to say to these children when I see them. Should I be asking them their name or is that creepy? What sorts of follow up questions are appropriate? What is upsetting to a child and his/her parent? I have zero – ZERO – clue. Generally this isn’t an issue because kids in NYC tend to be as aloof and cool as their parents/nanny, so they don’t talk to me. But sometimes they pull me into a conversation and I TRY, really I do! But usually it ends with me upsetting both the kid and the parent.
Case Study 1:
I get on elevator up to our apartment. Little boy with mother is also in elevator with their tiny dog. I’m pushing a stroller with an adorable baby inside, so of course mother asks, “How old is she?”. I respond and counter with (like I care), “How old are you????” directed, of course, at the little boy. “Four.” Ok fine. I should have quit there. “Is that your dog? How old is your dog?” “Five.” Ok, generally going smoothly here. Why not mess it up?
“Wow, so your tiny dog is older than you?!” Tears. Instant tears. “MOMMY WHY IS THE DOG OLDER THAN ME???!!!!”.
“Ok, well this is my floor – BYE.”
I’m not quite sure what to take from this. Being a math person, I have only pointed out the obvious here. 5 > 4. What’s the big deal? I make a mental note not to point out obvious things to four year olds because they are very fragile.
Case Study 2:
We are in the playground.
Samara loves the swings and also loves to just stare like a creeper at every parent and kid there. She can’t take her eyes off of this little boy and his dad. Dad, btw, is going for Parent of the Year. He’s up the slide, he’s down the slide, everything is SUPERFUN! and he’s narrating a mile a minute.
“Now we’re going down the slide! Now we are getting a sip of juice! Now you’re looking at a leaf! Now you are running away!” I’m exhausted. Samara is enthralled. We sit and watch the show. Finally the little boy comes over to her and grabs her Elmo doll away. She doesn’t cry, just continues to stare. Dad rushes over.
“He loves Elmo!!”
“So then he can probably just play with his own Elmo right?” No, wait, I don’t say that. “Oh, really? Fun. Can she have that back? We have to go.” Nothing. Little boy starts to walk away. Ugh. I manage to say, “Cute, how old is he?” This is pretty much the “It sure is nice weather we’re having!!” of parenting conversation. All I talk about is how old kids are. It’s the worst. “He’s two and a half.” Ok then. I’m pretty sure this is old enough to take some sort of direction, but I also understand that kids want toys, especially toys that don’t belong to them. Dad and I chit chat for a few minutes, mostly about how old our kids are and how this boy can’t say his name yet and just calls himself “Buddy” which is actually kinda cute. But still, I’d like to go now please.
“Can she have her Elmo back, please? She likes to chew on it because it makes her teeth feel good. She needs it because this particular Elmo doll is for babies. See his big plastic hands?”
Happy baby with her Elmo doll. Let’s try to recreate this by giving her back her toy, mkay?
“DON’T TELL HIM THAT HE’S TOO BIG FOR ELMO!!!!!” Oooooooook then! Pyscho. I was trying to make him notice that he’s holding a goddamn Elmo teether hostage. I try to explain myself. “I was just making him feel big.” “Well, you don’t say that to little kids.” Noted. Make kids feel like babies. Got it. Dad stares at me like I’ve just offered his kid candy while hanging out of an unmarked van.
So these are my epic encounters with other kids and their parents. Also worthy of note is that Samara has no friends. Zero. She plays only with adults. Soon maybe she’ll meet some cousins, but until then, I don’t think I can handle more of these kids and their parents.