Playground Discipline Dilemma

Thankfully, the dog days of summer are almost in the books. Jill and her five year old son Kyle have been cooped up in their tiny air conditioned apartment for nearly a week. With temperatures unseasonably warm, rising above 90, it’s been too hot to hit the playground. Plus the plastic slides, which are Kyle’s favorite, cook in the midday sun like a stovetop.

So a welcomed cold front is the perfect remedy for a touch of cabin fever.

But Kyle’s opportunity to run off some energy is dependent on more than weather. He needs his partner in crime, five year old Joey. The two tykes are best buddies on the primary colored apparatus.

Unfortunately, Joey has made the cutoff age for preschool enrollment.

This leaves Kyle standing around the fringe of the matted playground surface, watching unfamiliar kids chase up ladders and down chutes, all the while calling one another by name.

Jill’s heart is aching as she witnesses her little man mope against the chain link barrier. She puts on her best mom smile and tries to encourage Kyle to make new friends. But he’s having no parts of it. She even tags him on the shoulder and runs toward the swings…still nothing.

Then from out of left field, literally walking across the adjacent baseball field, is a potential rescue squad. And they are heading for the playground.

The Irish Mob

Led by the Boss, otherwise known as Mom, is a red haired following of five. And if there was a such thing as Irish quintuplets, this would be the case. Just as one bun came out of the oven, another one went in, four boys and one girl.

The last little treasure is Dillan, same age as Kyle to the month, and he’s kicking a worn sponge soccer ball with every step. It must have been a shower gift, because he doesn’t even look down to aim.

Ages six through nine walk through the gate without even a glance in Kyle’s direction. But Dillan has radar for non-sibling playmates, and he has a unique way of introducing himself. With pinpoint accuracy, he kicks his ball twenty feet, stopping right in front of Kyle.

Jill has no idea what causes Kyle’s sudden confidence, but he kicks the ball back, then leaves her side. As the boys continue alternating strikes, they meet in the middle. There’s a pause. Nothing is said. Dillan reaches down, picks up the ball, and tosses it to Mom. Then the boys make a beeline for the slides.

Mommy meeting

Mom:  “It works every time.”

Jill:  “Excuse me.”

Mom:  “The ball thing…works every time…I’m Delaney…Laney for short.”

Jill:  “Oh hi, I’m Jill…crazy…a minute ago I couldn’t pull him off the fence…next thing you know –”

Laney:  “Kids…they’re weird like that…you from around here?”

Jill:  “Yes…I’d guess about a half mile away, near the shopping center…I’ve never seen you here before.”

Laney:  “Yeah, we’re new here…my husband’s job moved him…we got a great deal on one of those new singles just beyond the baseball field.”

Jill:  “Oh wow…they’re beautiful…did you know that whole area used to be farmland…on Halloween, we would bring our son to see the pumpkins and –”

Laney:  “Yeah, we used to have a pumpkin patch in our yard…about that shopping center…I swear, all this packing and unpacking has
destroyed my nails.”

Jill:  “Maybe somewhere in there…Wow! five kids…we just got one and –”

Laney:  “You’re not kiddin’…I told Ryan, if you get me pregnant one more time, I’m gonna kick you right in the balls.”

Jill laughs uncomfortably.

Laney:  “Speaking of which…when I get them all set up with school, I’m gonna get this mess back in shape.”

Jill:  “Oh stop, you look great.”

Laney:  “Yeah, but sometimes I just need a little me time…you know what I mean…”

Jill:  “Oh, I hear you –”

Laney:  “Don’t get me wrong…I love being a mom…you know, the best job in the world and all, but…for real…sometimes it’s –”

Jill:  “Oh, I getcha…before I had Kyle, I used to –”

Laney:  “Isn’t this your boy?”

Jill:  “Huh?”

Laney:  “Your son.”

Sign of things to come

Laney points her finger in the direction of Kyle. He’s walking toward them with big crocodile tears and holding his arm. Jill jumps off the bench and runs to him.

Jill:  “Kyle, Honey, what happened…what’s wrong with your arm?”

Kyle:  “Dillan, he…he pushed me real hard…and I told him to stop…and he pushed even harder…and I fell on my elbow…”

In the meantime, Delaney gets up and comes over.

Laney:  “Did my little devil, I mean Dillan, do that?”

Kyle:  “I told him to stop, and he pushed me off the swing.”

Jill:  “Oh the swings…you and Dillan were at the swings…I couldn’t
understand…why would Dillan –”

Laney:  “Did I hear the name Kyle?”

Kyle:  “Uhh…yeah.”

Laney:  “Let me see that arm Kyle…Oh that’s nothing…ask Dillan about the time his brother pushed him out of the treehouse…”

Kyle smiles and giggles.

Laney:  “No seriously…right out…spent four hours at the hospital…got a cast and the whole thing…never saw him so excited…couldn’t wait to go to school and get it signed…you’ll be alright Buddy.”

Jill:  “Kyle, do you want me to run to the car and grab a Band-Aid?”

Kyle:  “Mmmm…”

Jill:  “It will only take a minute.”

Kyle looks up at Delaney.

Kyle:  “Nah.”

He runs off. Jill and Delaney head back to the bench.

Jill:  “That gave me a bit of a startle for a second…you know, he’s not really used to…I mean…I don’t know…being an only child and all…Dillan has his older brothers –”

Laney:  “Ahh, don’t sweat it…boys will be boys…and besides, when was the last time they replaced this mat…no wonder he got banged up.”

Over the next few weeks, the moms and boys met regularly at the playground. But Kyle’s scraped elbow wasn’t the only eyebrow raising incident.

Kyle’s shirt was stretched from Dillan’s aggressive version of tag.

Laney:  “That Dillan…you know Jill, I never let my kids wear good clothes to play.”

At the pizza shop, Dillan was shooting spitballs at Kyle.

Laney:  “I can’t understand why they give kids straws…they know what they’re gonna do with them.”

In the park, Dillan stabbed Kyle in the back with a tree branch.

Laney:  “Oh that boy’s gonna be the death of me…he must have seen every pirate movie there is…I tell him, they’re not real swords…not even
hitting each other…it’s acting, pretend.”

Jill is becoming confused by Delaney’s deflection of Dillan’s misbehavior.

Where is the strict mothering, the parental guidance? Children need disciplining. And without actually asking for it, they inherently crave direction and often thrive from having a rule structure in their lives.

Is Delaney just “lazy parenting?”  What is Jill’s Callemonit?  Can she kind of sneak her beliefs in during a friendly conversation?

She knows that Kyle enjoys playing with Dillan, and she doesn’t want to end the relationship. But she feels a responsibility to her son to make sure he’s in a safe and healthy environment. Plus, Dillan’s misconduct can possibly become a bad influence.

Have you ever experienced something similar to this situation? Did you Callemonit?  Leave a comment below.

Join the Conversation


  1. Great work as always!

    I see this sort of thing often. I honestly wonder if the parents even see it as a problem?

    I’m of an age where one of the most important factors in a child’s education was to instil ‘respect’.

    Not just respect for your elders, but to respect everyone. Unfortunately, over the last thirty years, or so the mutual respect that used to be everywhere, is almost extinct (or maybe it’s just me?).

    My thoughts are, Laney probably doesn’t even see it as a problem and if Jill broaches the subject with her, she’d probably take it personally.

    People are naturally defensive, especially about their kids. I fear even a calm and sensible callemonit would probably signal the end of their ‘friendly’ relationship.

    So, the question becomes, does Jill consider the situation severe enough to threaten ending Kyle’s friendship?

    My recommendation? Remind Kyle that it’s okay to tell his Mom if things get to much. ONLY then would be the time to callemonit.

    1. Steve,

      As always, thank you for your compliment and commentary. With any Callemonit, you have to ask yourself, “Is it necessary for me to live with the unwanted stress?” I agree, Laney probably wouldn’t accept the Callemonit as constructive criticism, and the friendship would likely end. And Kyle would be upset with his mother over no longer playing with Dillan. But Jill shouldn’t have to worry about Kyle’s safety and Dillan’s bad influence every time they get together. She is choosing to be a responsible parent, and without saying, Kyle depends on her to put his wellbeing before Laney’s pride. So while I agree with your assessment of the likely outcome, I think Jill should Callemonit anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

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