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reading tiger

Gender Politics on the Playground, Revisited

This morning was our first pre-kindergarten playdate at Mills College Children's School. It went well, mostly. My kids love the playground. They got their faces painted -- tiger and cheetah. They played with bubbles and waterguns. They met new friends. They built a very long river channel through the sandbox into the wood chips and practiced their nascent engineering skills thereon.

The parents were for the most part pretty friendly without being too pushy, and I had several pleasant if not particularly deep conversations. There's time. We ate bagels and enjoyed the warm weather.

There were only two moments -- both, it turns out, related.

The minor incident was that there were two women talking to each other, I guess trying to locate where they worked in respect to each other in Oakland. I was sitting right next to them as they spoke. "Right by Homeroom," one of them was explaining. "You know, the macaroni and cheese place?" The other woman looked blank.

"Oh, I know where Homeroom is..." I said by way of being chatty.

The woman turned to look at me...and didn't see me. This happens on occasion, but not usually around other parents. She looked right through me as if the person who had spoken must be standing behind me. Since she couldn't find that other person, she turned, with a glazed look, back to her conversation.


G. informed me later that she was a fitness instructor. I take a clue.

The more major incident was with a boy who turned out, in a grand coincidence, to be her son. "The boy in the green shirt." I think he will be entering third grade.

You know me. You know I am sensitive to gender dynamics on the playground. Especially in mixed-age groups where my children are on the young end. I noticed that at some point, the boys were the ones who had possession of all the water guns, for example. (n.b.: at this play date there were no teachers, only parents; I do not anticipate this sort of thing to be the norm at Mills.) I let this one go, except for one negotiated water gun swap ("why does she need the red one?" "Because red is her favorite color." "Oh. OK.").

Late in the afternoon, April went down to play tether ball. She found an older girl to play with. They passed the ball back and forth in a cheerful, noncompetitive sort of way.

Less than a minute later, three boys, led by Green Shirt, descended upon the tether ball court. Suddenly, the other girl was standing by the fence. And April, I can't remember if she was standing there arguing or had sat down in protest and possibly tears at this point, but she was unhappy. I know there were tears somewhere in here.

I walked down and intervened. Green Shirt told me "they had a turn!" and I turned stone. "No. They did not. They had just started their game when you came down and took over without asking. That's not OK." Green shirt glared at me for a moment, then said to his sidekicks, "let's go." I invited the girl by the fence to resume her game, and then I left again.

Not five minutes later, Green Shirt heads back to the tether ball court. Twirling a stick. G. gets up and marches after him. I figure it's a good idea to trail behind him. Closely.

Green Shirt puts down his stick just outside the tether ball area. This time, when G. and I arrive, he is standing between the girls, but he is not holding the ball. I say, "are you going to play the game with them this time?" He says yes. I look at April and the other girl. "Are you OK with him playing with you?" I ask. They both say yes. I say, "OK. I'm going to watch." And I park myself on a nearby bench. G. returns to watch from afar.

He plays for a minute or two and then wanders away again. He comes back a third time, but by then April had had her turn at tether ball (well...she enjoyed clutching the pole and watching the tether ball wrap around the pole above her head) and was ready to go home, so we left.

I am a Big Meanie. And I am OK with that. The invisibility, not so much.


Sounds like you might have just ID'd the kindergarten bully ...
Third grade bully, but yes.
You are the right kind of Big Meanie.

And the invisibility? How disconcerting (and annoying).
Unfortunately, I do not think she's teaching her kid to be sociopathic. I think she's teaching him to (or letting him) be typical for his race, class and probable sexuality.
You done good.
Yay for your big meaniness!
Whoa. I hope the teachers there are also big meanies. And that woman...creeeeeeeeeepy.

Edited at 2013-06-24 12:54 pm (UTC)