Tag Archives: name calling

An open letter to the ‘big boy’ at the playground

9 May

We live in a high-rise apartment building that has its own playground. There are perhaps two dozen kids living here that use that playground regularly – from teeny toddlers to teens.

My 4 year old son has a particular fondness for one of these boys. I’ll call him Adam.

Adam is a ‘tweenager’ : so he’s much older than my son. But he’s a sweet boy with a kind soul and he often goes out of his way to play with my son and to make him feel included. My son’s face literally lights up whenever he sees Adam.

The other day my son and I were down at the playground when Adam and a couple of friends came running in. They were obviously playing a game together and, naturally, my son wanted to join in. So off he ran. I started having a chat with some of the other parents there but very soon it dawned on me that the boys were gone.

And that’s when I saw it – my little boy’s head poking out from the spot he’d crawled into under the Little Tykes playground equipment.

He’d crawled in there so that no one would see him crying.

Apparently, as he tells the story, when he went up to Adam to ask if he could play too, he was told by another boy that, “Adam thinks you’re stupid.” just  before the boys ran off. And if that wasn’t enough to bring tears to my eyes and want to hug him for eternity, the next thing he said certainly did. “And Mommy, where was (sic) you? You’re supposed to come and give me hugs when people say bad things to me.”

So we had a great big cuddle right then and there on the playground floor, tears streaming down his face.

I did my best to reassure my son that he wasn’t stupid, that that was a mean thing for that boy to say and that people are sometimes going to say things to you that aren’t true. “I know it hurts but you have to learn to shake it off.” I told him.

If I could say anything to the boys in question, especially Adam, this is what it would be:

Dear Adam,

My son thinks that you are a pretty special person. But you probably know this already by the way that his face lights up, and the excitement in his voice when he calls your name, whenever he sees you. He looks up to you in probably the same way that you look up to the older kids at your school and your brothers. He doesn’t have an older brother so you are, in many ways, a role model to him. 

I realise that he’s a lot younger than you; and probably not your first choice in a playmate. I understand that. He can’t play the same games as you (or at least not as well) but you’ve always let him try. That is so important to him. You’ve shown patience and maturity with him that is beyond your years. And for that I would like to thank you. 

I would also like to remind you that my son is only 4 and a half years old. He’s just learning what the word ‘friend’ means. If you asked him to tell you what a ‘friend’ is, he would probably tell you that a friend is someone that you play with, share things with and who doesn’t fight with you. 

Can I ask you a favour? Please be careful what you say to him. He takes everything that you say to heart. Because he looks up to you, he’s likely going to do and say the same things that he sees you doing and saying because he wants to be like you: his ‘big’ friend. 

If he hears that someone that he thinks of as ‘friend’ thinks that he’s ‘stupid’, then I’m afraid that he’s going to think that that’s what friends do; put each other down.

His Dad and I understand that the world is not a perfect place. We understand that our son is going to get his feelings hurt from time to time and we are trying to teach him how to best deal with that. But if you could understand the influence that you have to set a positive example of what friendship is all about…well, we would be grateful.