I recently had lunch with my family at a restaurant that has a play area for kids. It’s full of cute toys and it gives the kids something to do while we are waiting for food to arrive. Since it’s a rare, very kid-friendly restaurant, there are often many children playing in the same space.
When we were there, two little girls were playing with all of the play food at a small table. My daughter, walked up to the table and wanted to play with the food too. And why not? There was an empty seat and plenty of toys.
But the little girl, not more than 4 years old, turned to her and said: “You can’t play with this. We are playing with all of it.”
In response, my timid almost three year old just looked forlornly at the play things, literally covering the entire table. There were so many toys on the table, the two children sitting there could not possibly use all of them at once.
This is one of those things that just raises my hackles. We are in a public space with toys that are meant to be shared with everyone. How dare you tell my kid that they can’t play? Stop being such a bully.
And inevitably in situations like this, I feel compelled to sweetly ask the offending child (albeit with clenched teeth): “Can she play with a few of these things here? They are supposed to be shared with everyone.”
Playing in a shared space.
Some of my lowest moments as a parent have been the arguments I have had with bratty children who won’t share anything with my kids. And while I don’t love that I’m arguing with a four year old, every time I want to march right up to their parent and ask them to please parent their child. I don’t care that your kids are playing without you and you are finally getting some time to talk to your spouse, you still have to parent. Frankly, you have to parent even MORE in a shared space, because kids are naturally pretty selfish and bratty. Of course they don’t want to share. Of course they want everything to themselves. But in a place where none of the toys are theirs, they simply can’t act that way. And I’m tired of intervening at playgrounds, restaurants, the zoo, or the children’s museum for my kids to get a chance to play with something or get a turn with the slide. I shouldn’t have to do that. But I’m definitely not going to stand around and watch your bully of a kid hoard all the toys.
These public places are not babysitters. You still need to parent your child.