I just took the baby to an indoor play space at the mall and had a really weird experience. I’d love some tips!
The indoor play place is about the size of the Claire’s jewelry store next door to it. I thought about taking pictures, but I feel odd taking pictures of other people’s kids… So picture small, with a carpeted (and padded) floor. It was lined with cushioned benches for the parents to sit. In the center, it had 6 structures that seemed like they were made out of very hard plaster – like crack-your-skull-on hard if you’re a little kid. They seemed dangerous for someone really little. And in between some of the benches were activities – like tic-tac-toe on the wall, a steering wheel, a wall that looked like a piano and made noise, etc.
It wasn’t ideal for Baby Girl but I worry that she spends all of her time with me and my mom (who watches her while I’m at work) and doesn’t meet other kids. So I crawled around with her while she played with the musical wall and enjoyed watching the bigger kids.
While crawling around with her, I noticed a little girl (let’s guess 5 years old), who kept asking every other kid in the area if they wanted to play with her. She kept suggesting hide and seek, which made no sense to me because where would you hide for more than 5 seconds? Behind the mini slide or in the 2 foot tunnel? There weren’t many options! Anyway, all of the kids refused to play with her, and most of them ignored her like she wasn’t even there talking to them. It broke my heart for her. And besides being a little intense, she wasn’t even that weird! It wasn’t like she had boogers on her face or smelled or anything. I felt terrible for her.
And that’s when she zoned in on Baby Girl. Baby Girl had attracted quite a few fans who were all staring at her. They all scattered when Olivia showed up. That’s her name; she actually told me her full name but I tried not to hear past Olivia because that seems creepy to know that about a strange child.
First she wanted to have Baby Girl sit on her lap, and I was fine with that if Baby Girl was. Typically, when strangers (including relatives she hasn’t met yet) want to hold her, she loses it! But she didn’t mind Olivia holding her. I think she was interested in meeting another little kid. Then Olivia played on the piano wall for Baby Girl. Baby Girl paid attention for a few minutes, but then started crawling to me. I looked down to her and said “Do you want to sit in my lap?” I ask her this often.
Olivia chirps up “Can I sit in your lap?”
Uhhh… how should I have responded?
My heart broke for her because clearly she wasn’t fitting in with the kids. Also, my wonderful boyfriend’s mother told me that when he was young, he would sit in the laps of other dads (at church, etc). His birth father left pretty early on but luckily for him, T got a terrific stepdad at the age of 4. But before the stepdad, it seemed like he was always looking for a father figure. Was this little girl doing the same thing?
Also on my mind was something I was told when I started working for the local school system years ago as a contractor. The district had a real problem with teachers being fired for innocently touching (high school) students. We were warned not to even tap a kid on the shoulder. Avoid touching students at all costs because it could cost you your job.
All of these things were running through my head. Pity for the girl, pity for the boy T used to be, and a fear of anyone thinking that something inappropriate was happening.
In the end, I awkwardly avoided the girl getting in my lap by offering to put Baby Girl in hers. In the process, she tried to basically pig-pile on me though.
What do you think I should have done? How should I have handled it?