Archive | October, 2011

Be Kind

30 Oct

Vivian and I took advantage of the crisp fall weather early Friday afternoon and walked up to our local library, which has an excellent playground. Nearing the crest of the hill, I could hear the sounds of children playing and hoped that it wouldn’t be too crowded. My heart sunk when we rounded the entrance and I saw at least a dozen young teen girls on the equipment. Irritated, I thought of what to say to reclaim the occupied infant swings; my fake smile barely concealing my annoyance as we approached. But, before we reached the play area, the teen offenders hopped off the swings and ran giggling past me – though not without pausing to coo at Vivian’s cuteness. A few seconds later I heard one of them announce, “Guys, you can still play, but there’s a baby here now so we need to be considerate.” And they did, and they were.

I felt ashamed at my reaction – what would my tight-lipped request to share the swings really have said? The girls may have just chalked up my annoyance to my being a grumpy adult, but the underlying message was clear:

“You are obnoxious. You shouldn’t be playing. You are in the way. You don’t belong here. Your happiness is less important than mine. Your joy is annoying. Your gaiety is unwelcome.”

The same shitty messages that I grew up with. Poor girls. Temporarily safe and sheltered on old, familiar grounds; enjoying the last vestiges of childhood while teetering on the brink of entry into an unknown, frightening world – and there I am, a shining example of adulthood, of what they are to face and what they will become. Was that really the best I could do? As Vivian swung happily in her baby seat I looked over at the girls, who were busy clamoring up and down the slide and taking pictures of each other dangling upside down on the monkey bars. And I smiled. Smiled at their fun, at their joy, and at their play.

Later, on our way home, we walked past a mom on a nearby bench, her arms crossed and her face angry. Her two children, who had previously joined us on the slide near the baby swings, played quietly nearby. I wondered if she was annoyed with the teenagers like I had been. I wondered how much difference a smile would have made. I was reminded of this:

This week, I will do my best to be kind. To smile more and judge less. Will you?