On Sunday we took M to a family fun fair. It was a last-minute decision, and I wasn’t entirely sure I had the times or dates right. We were all very happy when we turned a corner and saw a bounce castle — we were in the right place, and other people were there! M loves jumping so as soon as we set her down she took off toward anything and everything inflatable.
She went inside of a big jumpy castle with several other kids — no problem. She can hold her own quite well, and when she falls down she gets back up again with ease. Next she tried this slide, which was a bit tricky because everyone else was bigger than her and she needed some help up to the top. Matt cleared the way and the three other kids were fine with letting her take a bit of extra time.
We played on the playground, enjoyed a hay ride, and wandered the grounds of the camp area where the fun day was taking place. After an hour or so we knew we had to get heading home, so I asked M what she wanted to do with her last few minutes at the event. She wanted to jump, so I hoisted her into the biggest castle again. And a little girl, maybe seven or eight years old, looked at her with disgust and said, “Ew, a baby. Guys — there’s a LITTLE ONE in here. Ugh.”
I was completely taken aback. I said, “I think everyone can all play together and share.” They ignored me. M was already having a blast jumping.
One of her companions turned to us and said, “There’s only four kids allowed in here.” I thought that maybe someone had told them that, so I pulled the laminated set of rules out of the pocket where they were stashed, and read through the part that clearly read “6-8 children under age 12 allowed.” Of course there were four of the girls in there, making faces at us.
I turned to Matt and showed him the paper. As usual, when I lose my voice, he jumps in — “HEY. Girls. It says right here — up to eight kids allowed.” They tried to argue with him, I kept an eye on M, and having heard that there was no four-kids-only rule, a bunch of other kids were like “I can play too?!” and jumped in. After much eye-rolling, the girls filed out. It was incredibly bizarre.
Matt and I talked about it later, and I couldn’t get over how young those kids were to be so exclusionary. As a former teenage girl I know that that kind of thing happens — but I thought it was like, high school, boyfriends, teenage drama territory, not kids on a bounce castle not wanting to share with a not-even-two-year-old. When I was a kid I would not have dared to talk to a kid like that if their parent was around — and there’s no way I would have talked to an adult like that!
I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do in that situation. I tried to stick up for M but was so completely shocked that I fumbled. I’m glad she was none the wiser (she just wanted to play!). I guess I’m going to have to learn how to deal with mean girls, already, and do everything I can to ensure that my own child doesn’t pick up that sense of entitlement and exclusiveness.