We had nice weather this past weekend (around 50 degrees), so I took the girls to the park Saturday morning. The sun was shining and we had a very pleasant time. They are in a big swinging phase, so we spent 2/3 of our time with me pushing them in swings (Zuzu is learning to pump her legs and was trying to teach Coco, who ignored her and giggled every time I pushed). Once they hit their fill of the swings, Zuzu headed for the big-kid equipment (the one that says "for kids ages 5-12") and Coco wandered around holding Cooper's leash, content to walk the dog and then play for a little bit on the little kid equipment.
The playground wasn't crowded, but there were several families there, enjoying the sunshine. I saw Zuzu talking to a little boy who looked just a bit older than her, and she must have told him her name because they were playing together and he kept calling for her to chase him, but she would then act shy and duck her head. So I watched them play for a while and then decided it was time to head home for lunch and Coco's naptime.
Zuzu has gotten SO MUCH BETTER about leaving the park without fuss. We talk about it on the way there, I give her a lot of transitional reminders "5 minutes," "2 minutes," "choose one more thing and then we're done," and then I throw in a positive incentive: "We're going to go have lunch and icicles!" But we've always tried these strategies, so mostly I think she's just gotten older and that's helped.
Coco, on the other hand, is now in the back-arching fit-throwing phase, so she fusses as we leave the park each time, and Zuzu sits next to her in the stroller acting all morally superior as though she weren't the one throwing the EXACT SAME FITS just a few months ago.
Anyway, I had just delivered the "Choose one more thing and then we're done" (thank you, Daniel Tiger's Mom, for all of my best parenting tactics), when another kid came onto the playground. He was there with his dad, who took a seat on one of the nearby benches. There were probably a dozen kids running over and around the equipment, and this kid (probably in fourth or fifth grade?) was older and bigger than almost all of them.
He was also carrying a toy gun.
It was OBVIOUSLY fake. It looked like a water gun--it was a bright neon green. But it wasn't one of the tiny little water gun pistols. It was like a super-soaker machine-gun style. You know the type. My brother and I had guns like this when we were kids. We had plenty of water gun fights in the backyard. They are awesome because they can shoot a stream of water really super far.
This gun did not appear to have water in it. At least, he wasn't shooting water at anyone.
But he was definitely pretending it was a loaded gun. At least, he was lurking around, hiding, running, carrying it,and pointing it like it was a real weapon.
And as I write this out, I think What's the big deal? He was a kid on a playground. Playing with a toy.
But it TOTALLY creeped me out at the time.
I think it was because he was playing guns, but he was the ONLY ONE with a gun.
He was a big kid with a (toy) gun and there were all these little kids running around without (toy) guns, and we were on a playground and I didn't see him actually POINT the gun directly in anyone's face, but it was still freaky, I swear. He wasn't confrontational and the kids were paying no attention to him, but as I watched him act like he was sneaking and jumping around corners while carrying a weapon, my stomach felt all twisted up.
It's not like he was doing something WRONG, but it also wasn't something I really wanted my three-year-old to see. It was just weird. And I don't know if I was being hypersensitive (particularly given the fact that gun violence is obviously on my mind), but I really wanted to tell him to stop it.
I even considered going over to his dad, and asking him if he thought it was really appropriate for him to be pretending to use a gun around all of these kids who were unarmed.
I didn't do either of those things. I just thanked my lucky stars that Zuzu was in a cooperative mood and loaded the girls up in the stroller and got the heck out of there.
When I described the scene to David later, I asked him if he would have said anything to the dad, and he said no. I mean, what is there to say? Uh, could you tell your kid to stop PLAYING on a playground with a TOY? Maybe if someone had been scared, but none of the other children seemed bothered (although we left almost immediately, so I didn't stick around to see if he interacted with any of them). It's not like he was breaking any rules or anything. It just felt so inappropriate to me, though I was probably the only one there who cared. Am I crazy?
So what do you guys think? Am I overreacting to kids being kids? We actually HAVE water guns, even a couple of the small super soaker ones. I sometimes shoot Zuzu with one while she's in the kiddie pool (birthing pool, haha) in our backyard. I'm definitely NOT anti-water-gun. It was just SO CREEPY, the way he was acting. But now that I'm writing this out, it seems silly. What would you have done in that situation?