Thursday, July 26, 2007

Playground Etiquette

The other day I took my two younger kids to a park in Rechavia. After playing for a while on the roundabout, the boys decided to go for the swings. Although the park has six swings they were all occupied. My boys, aged 2 and 5, were interested only in the swings and decided to wait. They were exceptionally patient.

But the people there weren't getting off. There was a family of 4 little girls, aged 2-11 by my estimation. They were sitting on the swings. They weren't even swinging but eating peaches. Once in a while one of them swung a little. Their parents sitting on a nearby bench - 5 yards away - watched smiling, and watched us waiting but didn't say a word! After 2-3 minutes they began to swing, but on a few occasions, one went to get another peach or to push the youngest. Each time, they carefully reserved the swing for their sister.

So how long do you think they persisted? After about 4 minutes, my 5 year old was given a swing by somebody else. They were still not budging. I turned to one of the little girls and said gently, "My little boy has been waiting for a long time!" and she ignored me. She didn't even reply.

And this continued. The parents watching me and my two year old, who was angelic. He's usually VERY active. He clearly REALLY wanted that swing. We waited for over 10 minutes. There we were standing right by that swing. There was no doubt that we were next. I made another 2 comments to the girls, and again was absolutely ignored - not even a reply - until their two-year-old got tired of it. Ten minutes...maybe more! A two year old waiting sweetly and they were taking their time on 3 of the swings! Infuriating.

Needless to say, I was quite shocked at this family's lack of care or consideration for those around them. When you see people waiting for a swing and your kid has had a reasonable turn, you vacate the swing to allow another kid a chance!

Should I have been more aggressive?
Should I have spoken to the parents?
How can parents see such lack of consideration and just sit there calmly? How self-centered can one be?

(One minute later an Israeli lady (Morrocan) came along and very quickly told one of their girls that she had been there quite long enough and being a big girl, how could she not give her swing up to (her) little boy. Her assertiveness made me think that maybe I had been too soft. I think that I expected the parents to do something! Oh! and if it makes any difference, the family were English speaking...American... seemed like Olim and not tourists. Does that make a difference?)

I remember once hearing the quote once that the "Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eaton and Harrow." What that means is that values of persistence and heroism, leadership and teamsmanship are learned at play, and then put into practice in adult life. Play teaches us interpersonal dynamics, teamwork, endurance, discipline, and much more. (An approximate quote from Rav Lichtenstein: "When someone is paying ball and keeps the ball to himself and won't pass, that isn't simply bad play; it is morally repugnant!")

The park is where kids learn how to relate to other kids!

Some time ago, my same two boys were running along the pavement on their way to Gan (Kindergarten). They were having a race as to who could get ahead. And as they were running my 2-yr-old fell flat on his face. The 5 year old - who is very competetive and hates to lose - kept going. After the little one stopped crying, I called him back and said: "When your brother falls, you ALWAYS run back to help. He's your brother. You always help your brother or friend. When he's down, the competition doesn't matter any more." I think it made an impression, because the next week, in the same scenario he ran back to help his little brother. He gave hima big hug and gave me a knowing smile.


Anonymous said...

Rav Alex, you've gotta decide- are you Israeli are aren't you? surely you know by now that you can't play by british rules in Israel and not get run over by a taxi, chas veshalom, not literally. you know what i mean.

anyway it's great that you're encouraging more feedback on the ol' blog.
shavuah tov

Alex Israel said...

You can take the Brit out of England ....