A Bad Lion
March 13, 2009
Yesterday I took Bridget to the mall to return a dress. She was good as gold through-out the process at Macy’s so I decided to take her to the play area. There, all small children take off their shoes and run and climb and jump on those semi-soft, glossy structures of animals, cars, bridges, etc. while mothers sit on benches and observe.
Bridget loves this place.
There were a lot of children at the play area yesterday. Predominantly preschool-age. Bridget scooted through the hollow “log” and then climbed to the top of it, where she turned to me, eyebrows furrowed, and announced, “I’m a bad lion.” She followed this up by a small roar.
I should pause to say that in certain social contexts, this third daughter of mine has been known to become the “monster” whom all the other children delightedly run away from, shrieking and laughing. It is a game they play, and the runners are having fun as they approach the monster to tease her and wait for her to “scare” them. When this tendency to “be the monster” emerged in Bridget’s repertoire of playing styles, I was a little disconcerted, but took an amused stance and obviously never let her get away from actually harming or bullying other kids, nor have I noticed her trying to harm or bully.
“She’s the third kid!” I’d remark. “She’s my feisty one!”
Back to the mall: Bridget sprang from the hollow log and approached (on hands and knees, as a lion stalks!) a group of children clustered around a large turtle. “RRROOOAAARRR!!!!” She bellowed.
I am not joking when I tell you that at least four mothers jumped up from their benches to investigate which child had been mortally wounded. Seeing this and recognizing that bloodcurdling roar myself, I joined them with a sinking feeling in my heart.
The children that Bridget had tried to engage in her game of scream and chase were all looking a little perplexed at the white-blond-haired little girl who had just roared so menacingly, and I found myself saying to all their mothers, a bit sheepishly, “Oh, that’s my daughter. She’s just playing” before sweeping down and picking Bridget up to tell her in a quiet, stern tone, “I don’t think the kiddos here want to play with Bad Lion.” She looked confused and after I set her down, proceeded to test out her roar once again, this time not so loudly. These children didn’t “get it” and their mothers were all now looking at me with disdain.
I pulled Bridget onto my lap and had a quiet talk with her, explaining that she could not roar any more, sometimes it’s okay to play that way but these children don’t like it, if you do it again we’ll have to go home, blah blah blah….
What I wanted to do after that was to leap up onto a bench and call out to the other mothers at the mall, “I am a good mom. I have nearly raised two other daughters who seem like they are going to be decent, caring citizens. They never roared or acted like the monster. And gosh-darn-it, this is a good kid too, even if she likes to play aggressively sometimes. She also is sweet and snuggly and she can almost write her name and she says funny things and sings songs all day and talks about God. Don’t you women know that people are complicated? And I don’t know why she feels like she needs to scream and roar like a maniac in certain social settings but I hope it doesn’t mean she’s going to become a criminal and maybe I need to be doing more work at home with developing her social skills so that she has other ways of relating to children that she doesn’t know well and won’t need to resort to the screaming monster game.”
Who would I have been talking to, though? Those mothers at the mall… Or my own heart?