April 26, 2010

Every Step You Take, Every Move You Make...

.....I'll be watching you!

Yes, that's right, I'm a people watcher. A pretty avid one, to boot. Social dynamics have always intrigued me, and the story teller in me is always interested in observing the drama that unfolds around us each and every day. Take today, for instance - it was a particularly gloomy day, and since it had been a long weekend cooped up indoors I decided to venture out to the mall to let my daughter burn off some of her energy. This mall has a play area complete with, well, a whole lotta nothing really, but it keeps the kids contained and has a sad little slide. However it's not our house, therefore making it 10x more exciting to Lainey. She had already run about three laps by the time I unpacked Owen, and then he and I took a seat on the "observation bench".

To my left, there was a younger couple - probably mid-20s - casually dressed, nothing remarkable. They apparently had three offspring in this play area, and each one looked to be no more than 10 mos older than the one before. In fact, it took a lot of observing for me to distinguish that they were, in fact, different ages. The middle child, a little girl, was especially intrigued with my son. If I so much as made eye contact with her, she'd run over wagging the snotty finger that had just been in her nose and wanting to wipe it all over poor Owen's bald head (maybe that wasn't her intention, but I call it as I see it). Each time, her mom just looked over and smiled, never attempting to thwart the nose-picker or redirect her elsewhere. After about the sixth time, when she actually started sitting beside me for lengthy periods of time, I started to get creeped out. I mean, who gets creeped out by a 2 year old? But this girl was intense, I'm telling you! She never spoke a word, just stared at us. Awkward.

To my right, there was a well-dressed young dad, his 6-year-old daughter (I know, because she told me!), and an infant girl. He apparently had two boys in there too, but they moved so fast they were merely a blur and I didn't connect them until it was their time to leave. I'm not sure that the dad ever actually looked up from his cell phone the entire time he was there, including when his infant crawled into oncoming toddler traffic. Luckily, there were no injuries...

Beside him was a young teenage girl wearing a shirt about two sizes too small (to the point where her pink bra was peaking out from underneath the barely-existant neckline), with a 2 year old boy dressed all in Ralph Lauren. I couldn't quite decide if she was the mother, babysitter, or older sister - any one of these could be a valid assumption this day and age. What struck me was her tendency to yell at this poor little boy anytime he came within 2 feet of another child. "Jayden, don't touch her!" "Jayden, get back here!" I wasn't sure if this was her protecting him, or her protecting the other kids FROM him, but honestly - if you don't want your kid to play with other kids, perhaps a playground is a poor choice?

About halfway through our time there, another young dad came with his small brood. He had a mohawk, some interesting tattoos, and a bandana tied around his wrist, I would guess around 24. With him were two boys, maybe 4 and 2, and a little girl just learning to walk. He intigued me the most out of everyone because he so boldly stuck out against every stereotype imaginable. Upon entering the play area, he got down on his knees, eye to eye with the kids, and gave his children a very gentle and well-delivered speechlet about staying in the kids area (Cell Phone Dad would've benefited from such a speech, as his 6-year-old wandered out twice while he was texting), and about playing nicely. Mohawk Dad then proceeded to walk with his daughter hand-in-hand, guiding her to the slide, and clapping like an idiot when she slid down sideways and backwards. He played hide-and-seek with his boys, and even started a really adorable toddler parade that skipped throughout the play area. Sure, he looked like a fool. And yet, I was very impressed by him. We could all take a page out of Mohawk Dad's book and really get down on our kids' level, teach them and play with them and appreciate them for the little people they are.

There was also an adorable little Hispanic girl running around, though I never did figure out who she belonged to.

I couldn't help but watch the social structure of the kids, as well. The boy named Jayden, who was constantly being barked at, hovered on the outside of the action. I could tell he wanted to run at full speed along with the other boys and join in the skipping parade, but crawled in an out of a tunnel instead. The eldest of the Irish triplets was a bully and had claimed the car as his domain, twice pushing away any child who attempted to play with it. His sister (the youngest one, not the one who was assaulting me and Owen) was the odd-one-out in fleece footed PJs, and she appeared to be wandering aimlessly and never actually playing at all. The six-year-old daughter of Cell Phone Dad was clearly attention-seeking, and was putting on a small gymnastics show for whoever pretended they were interested.

And then there was Lainey. I guess, today, I would've labeled her the socialite. She alternated between chasing the boys who were running a hole into the floor, going down the slide with Mohawk Dad's baby, and jumping up and down alongside the gymnast girl. Twice she sauntered up to the young couple and waved hello, though I believe in truth she was eyeballing the Big Gulp that was sitting between them. At one point, I saw her giving Mohawk Dad's older boy a hug. I believe she had attempted to give one to Jayden, but he was scolded before she had even breached his little bubble.

There isn't a whole lot of point to this particular blog, though I do believe through people-watching I have gathered a lot more information besides just fashion faux pas (which, don't get me wrong, can be quite entertaining in their own right). I can see, through small glimpses, how some kids get to be the way that they are. I can see what works, and what doesn't. I can take away bits and pieces to use in my own life as a Common Goddess.

Who says you can't learn from strangers?

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