I’ve always been a kid person. Even before I had my own child, I’ve always just been one of those people who finds kids genuinely — and hilariously — enjoyable. Toddlers are adorable! Preschoolers are hilarious! Elementary-aged students are magical!
But ever since I became a parent, there’s a certain type of kid who I don’t trust anymore. That type of kid is: Any kid at the park who is bigger than my daughter.
Public parks and playgrounds are amazing. Part of the reason they’re so wonderful is that they’re for everyone. But when my daughter was 2 years old, I didn’t feel so kum-ba-ya about the whole situation.
Instead, I found myself practically seething at the big kids sprinting and crashing through the play equipment, leaving a trail of terrified toddlers in their wake. In fact, it was at the playground that I experienced animosity towards another child for the first time. A 2nd grade kid launched himself off the swingset and almost kicked my daughter in the face; a 4th grader plowed her over while engaged in an intense game of hide and seek; two older girls sighed heavily while waiting for her to get up the courage to go down the slide. Standing there, teeth clenched, I realized something strange: There was no one I feared more than a group of eight year olds playing tag.
For a while, I would pull up to the park in my car, and scan the playground for older kids. If I spotted one, I sighed. “Older kids,” I muttered to myself, like the world’s most ridiculous curmudgeon. “I’m watching you,” I communicated to any stray 8-year-old who dared look at me using only my eyes.
Every day, my daughter is getting bigger and older. Some day, in the not too terribly distant future, she’ll be one of the big kids at the park. And I hope that she plays hard — that she runs fast and jumps far and hides-and-seeks with the best of them. I also hope that she’s gentle and careful around the little kids she encounters. But either way, whenever that time comes, if I see a parent of a toddler glaring at her from across the park … I think I’ll understand.