That Boy in the Playground

I saw a little boy in a restaurant today. He was in his mother’s arms as she tried to order bagels at the till. He wanted cake, and tried squirming out of her arms to get it. When she said no, he shrieked and howled. She was embarrassed, but ploughed firmly on with her order, raising her voice to be heard above her toddler’s shouts.

The same little boy needed to go to the bathroom a few minutes later. His mother went with him. There’s a code on the door of this particular restaurant, but luckily, another customer held the door for them. But no, the little boy didn’t want to go in – he wanted to do the code himself. His mother picked him up and carried him in, much to his dismay. She distracted him and calmed him down, ignoring looks from other customers.

When it was time to leave the restaurant, the mother asked her daughter to grab some napkins from the counter. The little girl did so, and her smaller brother decided he wanted to do the same. He stretched up to get one, and a kind customer pulled one out for him. But that was no good – he had wanted to get it himself, so he dropped it on the floor. Another customer tried to help, and that napkin went on the floor too. Now mortified, the little boy’s mother picked him up, and carried him under her arm out of the restaurant. She was red-faced but looked like it wasn’t the first time she’d done it.

They went to the playground. The little boy insisted on climbing up the slide, which meant other children couldn’t slide down. His mother picked him off the slide each time, and gently but firmly (and loud enough for other parents to hear) explained to him that the ladder is for climbing, and the slide is for sliding. After six consecutive conversations, the mother took him away from the slide, over to the other side of the playground.

Boy in playground - Office Mum

The playground had wooden chips on the ground. The little boy met a new friend, and they began throwing chips at one another. The little boy had better aim than his equally enthusiastic new friend. His mother tried to stop him, again feeling the looks of other parents. Her son was that boy – the one causing all the trouble. She made sure that the parents could hear her telling him over and over not to throw the chips. If he must be “that” boy, she didn’t want to be “that” mother – the one who doesn’t see what her child is doing.

Her two daughters needed to go to the toilet. They walked up to a nearby tea-room. The mother bought a coffee, because the tea-rooms just weren’t big enough to try sneaking in to the bathrooms. In they trooped. The little boy insisted that he needed to go to the toilet again. He tried to lock the door. He tried to go into a cubicle occupied by another customer. He tried lying on the floor kicking and screaming when he wasn’t allowed to play with the soap. The mother looked like she might need a lot more than coffee to get through the afternoon. The staff looked like they felt sorry for her, but hoped she’d leave soon. And she did – boy under arm again. Yes, he’s that boy.

But she also knows he’s sweet, and kind, and fun-loving. That he loves making new friends, and always wants to play. That he never hurts other children, and is shocked and upset when anyone hurts him. He throws wood chips, not to annoy and not to antagonise, but because it’s amazingly good fun when you’re three. He wants to climb up the slide because we all kind of want to climb up the slide. He wants to pull napkins out of boxes because it looks like it’s the most interesting thing he’s never done before. He wants to put the code in the door because it’s like something from a TV show . And he wants cake, because who doesn’t want cake.

The mum just wants to say sorry to everyone at the playground today – she was the one with that boy.

Boy in playground - Office Mum



This post has also been published on Scary Mommy

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23 thoughts on “That Boy in the Playground”

  1. Oh, it’s hard being that boy, and it’s hard being his mother. If only everyone else at the playground would understand about climbing up the slide – it’s so much more satisfying than sliding down.
    Maud recently posted…A new imageMy Profile

    1. It is so much better – if I was on a slide, I’d want to climb it too. Sometimes, I get to do that, but more in a rescuing capacity…

  2. Oh I’ve been there. Especially the wood chip flinging. It’s the best fun EVER. never mind turn taking.

    Poor boy, and poor mum – never mind the coffee, have some wine!

    1. It is definitely not just a boy thing – I remember this phase well with eldest, less so with poor middle child who never got a look-in!

  3. I have that boy too, that sweet little boy, that frustrated little boy. The boy who tests my patients, then puts his cheek against mine and makes my heart swell.
    We wouldn’t have them any other way 🙂

    1. That’s such a lovely way to put it Nicola! Yes, I truly wouldn’t have it any other way. Most of the time anyway 🙂

    1. Yep. I got a massive hug and kiss two hours ago, along with “I love you very much” which is the first time he ever said it in such a grown up way, and I nearly cried!

    1. Thanks Aisling, and yes, sometimes the patience is absolutely at the limit for me – possibly every day at some time or other, but like you say, so worth it!

    1. You need to give me the name of your surgeon – better late than never… though mine is probably worn down to almost nothing at this stage 🙂

  4. I’m sure every parent in the playground has been there. I know I often watch other parents dealing with some kind of meltdown and my only thought is “thank god it’s not me today”! We had a spectacular tantrum in the park a couple of months ago, the only saving grace was that the place was almost deserted. I was mortified. I’m sure it won’t be the last time…
    Stuff and Nothing recently posted…Bedtime – an InterludeMy Profile

    1. Exactly. We’re all busy with our own kids and don’t have time to notice what other people’s kids are doing. But it’s hard to remember that in the moment!!

    1. I HOPE they would understand… I suspect the other parents of young kids would. I suspect the horrified man in the queue behind me in Itsabagel was less enamoured!

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