A few days ago, we took our daughter to the St. Louis Magic House for the day, something that we mean to do more often since we live pretty close to the fabulous children’s museum. It’s more like a giant play place, with a huge life-size beanstalk to climb, big slides, sandboxes, an enormous fun town replica of a village to explore, and even an Oval Office. It’s pretty fabulous, and even though we got sick the same day—possibly from the germs of many children running amuck—I would have done it again for the joy it brought to my daughter’s face.
While she was playing in the Water Works area, getting wet and having a blast like you’re supposed to at the Magic House, a mom with two younger sons fussed around them as they joyfully explored the water. “Conner! No! Stop! No splashing!” she would fume, and the poor kid—he was four or five, maybe—would stop, baffled. After all, he was in the water room; wasn’t he supposed to play in the water? He would, of course, start splashing again, and finally she just picked them both up and stormed off, saying it was time to go home.
My husband and I had been sitting there smiling, talking together and occasionally taking photos as our seven-year-old played independently. Did we act like that once? I’d like to say no, but I’m sure we did sometime or another. It broke my heart to see these two poor boys’ faces just crumble—they didn’t even cry, they were simply devastated—while their poor mom just didn’t know what to do to control them. Had she let go of control, maybe they could have all had some fun.
I really believe we’re all doing the best we can with what we know. I have seen much more violent displays of parenting, and I am sure that mom was really just trying to make her kids either not get wet or not be a nuisance—something we are constantly pressured to do by a society that often, incredibly, despises kids. I wanted to go to her and say, “It’s okay. They’re kids; they can play! Next time bring a change of clothes and it’s all good.” Then she could have sat next to us and watched them all, sharing in their joy instead of creating more stress for herself and her boys.