Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Balcony gardens and playground politics

I feel ashamed for the state of my balcony garden boxes.

Helena "helped" to plant a geranium yesterday.

(We have full sun all day long. And this street is a wind tunnel. This makes for great balcony-sitting, so long as one has a firm grasp on one's drink. It does not make for great flower boxes. Every year I want even lower maintenance. Next year I may settle for garden sculpture, sans garden.)

In past years, I might procrastinate getting our outdoor space in order, but there would come a point, usually at the end of May, where I'd say, "Oh I'll just set aside an hour later today and do it — do it all! — plant some stuff, spruce it up, hose down the area."

One geranium yesterday took two hours and a change of clothes for each of us. It produced a planted geranium so desperately over-watered I'm afraid it won't survive. Since it was drizzling outside (too wet for the park but not wet enough to keep us from getting fresh air in a desperate attempt to keep from going stir crazy inside the apartment), and since Helena was in charge of the watering can, we also produced one huge puddle of mud. Today it's not a puddle so much as a really dark stain that raises clouds when the wind gusts over it. I'm not sure how to tackle cleaning it — Helena will want to "help."

Morning glory will fill up the other bare boxes. And that'll have to do.

Helena will help. I just have change my mindset, set it all up as a time-consuming, dirty toddler activity. It's an activity! A day's adventure! I should have the hang of this by next year.

Today we went to park.

Helena was cued up at the top of the slide and waiting momentarily for the bottom of the slide, and for that matter the chute sides with all those grabby parent hands, to clear up. A woman coaxed her granddaughter to walk right over Helena. Walk right over her. Literally. And slide ahead of Helena. Somone coached a child to behave this way.

Helena started crying, I think because this woman spoke loudly and waved her arms a lot in a personal-space-invading kind of way, though I suppose she may have had her fingers stepped on. I could've clocked that woman. But I didn't. I scrambled up to the platform to comfort my child. And I muttered obscenities in this woman's general direction. In English (she was French). And rather quietly, it being a playground with impressionable children within earshot.

Should I have told her off? Corrected the child (had I been close enough, say, to physically bar her with my arm while Helena had her turn)? What is Helena learning from my actions, or lack thereof? Exactly how horrible a mother am I? This playground stuff is really hard.

Helena and I moped about the playground a little while longer, then we left to feed the ducks.


Miriam Jones said...

That's hard. I think (hope) I may have said something reasonably low key, providing the other person didn't look like they would escalate into nastiness in front of my kid. But I suspect that I would have reacted just as you did, and thought later of all the things I could have said. But you're right; we cannot be our usual selves when we are responsible for protecting and teaching our children. We may choose to let something go ourselves, but in a sense we don't have that right when it is our child who has been injured.

Anonymous said...

I definitely have been there, Isabella. But I'm afraid that, unlike you, I definitely lacked in the self-control department. Rude people make me angry at the best of times. So what do I do? Sure...turn around and be rude right back. Yeah yeah, I know. It's funny because my kids have always accused me of being rude when many times I was just defending them; I wonder if some people are just more easily offended by these transgressions? I do think I would have spoken to the woman just because. No need to swear, just simply saying, "errr...what do you think you're doing?" It might be something to think about anyway, especially since you guys seem to "mix it up" quite frequently at that park.'s funny, it confirms my suspicions actually that Canadians ARE ruder than Americans (though popular culture would tell us otherwise).