Under Siege: The Adventures of a Stay at Home Dad

*Editor’s Note: As promised… I let Dave write again this week. I’ve been working in New York all week and if it wasn’t for my contributors, Cassandra and Dave… you’d have nothing to read! And besides… I really like his stories and the way he uses the phrase “salty language”. Ha! This week’s story is one that I’m sure most of us have dealt with: big kids in a height/age restricted play area. I know I’ve dealt with this before. I’ll save my feelings for the comment section. Will you join me?

Or “You Tell me, what would you have done?”

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a couple of moments that I walked away from wondering to myself, “Did I handle that right?” or “Could I have handled that better?”…Or even “Was that my business to try to handle in the first place?”

A couple of weeks ago, during a rare rainy day, I had taken my three daughters, Sydney (5yrs old) and twins Emma & Maddie (1 ½ yrs old) to a kid’s playground at a nearby mall – you know the place…everything is soft except for the heads of the kids running around crazy and colliding with each other, all within the padded walls of the play area. It was precisely the unpadded heads of my children I was concerned about when that obviously too-tall to be in the play area toe-headed kid came running around the end of the play area in which Emma & Maddie were playing.

When I noticed this kid causing havoc, I asked a couple of the other parents in the area if I was just imagining that this kid was being a bit of a hazard and before I could go any further, each one of them chimed in that he definitely was, One even mentioned how he’d knocked over a much younger child just before we’d arrived at the play area.

Meanwhile, the little guy continued his running around the play area. As he came running around one of the large padded climbing toys, narrowly missing collision with Emma, I said rather loudly “Hey, let’s slow it down, no running, ok?” which was flatly ignored, and in such a way that it might have appeared I had said it in French. When his next race around the playground brought him near me, got in front of him, and said, “Hey, we’ve got to slow down, ok…we’re gonna run over the little kids and someone’s gonna get hurt if we don’t slow down.” Again, he just looked at me like I was speaking some foreign language and continued running around at top speed.

By this time I was a bit more than annoyed that this kid was being so disrespectful, so, on his next go-round, I stopped him by getting in his way and asked him where his parents were. He looked around a bit and then pointed to a tall, surly looking guy who began to approach me, seeing his kid being stopped by another parent. I moved toward him, stuck my hand out to shake his, and introduced myself as the parent of those 3 little girls over there. He nodded as I spoke, but it was one of those nods that said he “didn’t give a crap”. I explained that I had asked his son to slow down a couple of times and was just ignored, so felt I needed to bring it to his attention. It’s at this point, as I’m reading his reaction to what I’m saying, the voice in my head asked me “So, Dave, do you think he looks like he’s about to take a swing at you, or am I just imagining it?”

Mr. Tall Surly then began to lecture me about how these were all kids and who was I to try and police the playground…I responded with an “I’m not looking for a problem with anyone, I’m looking for you to do something about this. He’s being a hazard to my children and to the other kids, and was disrespectful when asked to slow down…and if you don’t do something, I’ll have to ask security to come in, and I don’t want to do that.” The guy then began to berate me in front of all the other parents and children, tossing out some salty language, as if he had just been called out at 3rd base when he clearly thought he was safe at his Wednesday night beer league softball game. Then, to cap off this display, he made a big show of removing his son from the play area because of “this guy thinks he’s running this place” – making certain to point at me as he was loudly telling everyone I was the reason he was pulling his son out of the area. I wasn’t pleased at how that parent handled things, as a matter of fact, I was surprised, as I tried to approach it in a “hey, we’re the adults here” kind of way.

I walked away from that visit wondering if, in a case like this, would it have been better to have just removed my children from the area…or was it right to try to address the issue with the parent, even at the risk of the parent being jerky about it?

I think the majority of us parents are trying to instill respect and responsibility in our children. But I also think a lot of us are feeling our way through this ‘being a parent’ thing and hoping to come out on the other end as having made good decisions along the was. I can say that after I had my exchange with the father, I had a couple of parents give me an approving Thumbs Up, and one actually stopped back by to tell me that the guy looked like he might have been a bit hostile, and that he hung out and “had my back, just in case, ya know”….it was nice to get these affirmations from my parent-peers…. But I still wondered if I did the right thing.

So, you tell me…

What would you do in a situation like this?

Have you ever experienced this sort of thing yourself?

I’m curious.


  1. CanCan says:

    I might have started crying at the dad. But I am a teacher (and parent) and I can’t resist trying to police kids that are acting badly whose parents aren’t stepping up. Sometimes I feel like the Lone Enforcer in a Sea of Apathy.

  2. Shanna May says:

    I totally would’ve had your back and probably would’ve even jumped in with a “yeah, Mister!” and some salty language of my own but this is coming from a mom who once told a too-big-to-be-in-the-play-area ruffian that I would “crack his skull” if he knocked over my kid again. Yes, I’m one of those so maybe I’m not the best person to offer advice. ;)

  3. David Stuart says:

    Thanks for your comment, Can Can….May I call you Can? :)

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, in the moment, I bet you’d have done just fine…but, if you’re like me, after any confrontation, there’s a period just afterward where, either adrenaline, or the realization that you just had a very awkward and stilted moment with someone, you’ll feel that nervousness, those butterflies in your stomach…

    Then again, I feel that every morning that I wake up before the kids do…and I get that feeling all over again….;)

  4. David Stuart says:

    Shanna, I would expect no less from you, and I am growing to love you for that! You’re an amazing… HEY PEOPLE, this Shanna chick…pretty awesome…way amazing! We’ll see what happens when we book that Churros and Playgrounds date!

  5. Kelly says:

    I’ve been out of town working and haven’t had a real chance to respond. This happened to me twice. Once I confronted the parent and she did tell her child to slow down… but in the same breath…. had some choice words for me. She then went back to her corner of the play area and I was left wondering if I had done the right thing. It didn’t really matter because the kid was still much too big and still not obeying… so ultimately we left shortly after and continued our shopping.

    NOW… the next time this happened. I Googled the mall on my phone… found the number to mall security and had them deal with it. This worked out much better for me. I felt vindicated. I was almost like Glenda the Good Witch liberating the munchkins!

    So there you have it. I’d call security again too. It wasn’t all dramatic like C.O.P.S. The guard simply came in and asked the big kids where the parents were and then explained to the parents about the height requirement. The end. *cheers*

  6. Lori says:

    speaking from experience (working in education for many years), i can tell you that no parent takes it well when their child is criticized, no matter how blatantly bad that child’s behavior is. i once had a dad come at me when his 5yo child was stopped from throwing rocks in the faces of some toddlers. parents can (and will) defend any behavior.

    i think in a situation like you describe, the best thing to do is to get the mall security to deal with it. confronting, as you found out, tends to escalate the situation, and you don’t want any surly dads taking a swing at you in front of your girls.

    since i am a woman and i have a perfected teacher/principle/mom voice, i can usually get children to behave and men almost never take a swing at me. ;) actually, the voice tends to work on them as well.

  7. David Stuart says:

    …had a reassuring experience last weekend. My wife and I took all the midgets to Scottsdale Fashion Square (not the stroller friendliest mall around, but there were some things we needed and they were only available at Fashion Square….Plus, it’s just a nicer mall! ). There isn’t a normal kid’s play area there – ya know, with the padded everything and the bog wide open spaces – however, there is an awesome place called Architecture Kids ( http://www.architecturekids.com/Site_2/fashion_square.html) that is even more awesome, if maybe not quite so padded and forgiving on the klutzy midgets.

    Long story short, another kid, who was of legal-to-be-in-there size was running around a corner and plowed into Emma, on of our 1 1/2 yr old twins…knocking her “ass over teakettle”, as Grandma used to say. I had a flashback from the above incident, but picked her up, made sure she was ok, and let her go on playing…a couple minutes later, the father of the kid that had knocked her over came over and apologized effusively for his kids poor behavior…

    That, to me, feels like it’s the way these things should be handled….like adults…and with some grace. Right?