I’ve worried occasionally while we are here in Germany that someone might say something about Elisabeth and I might not understand. Or that she falls and I’m not able to communicate to emergency personnel. It’s a feeling of helplessness that I recognize from its periodic haunts. But after a recent episode here, I realized that language may perhaps be over-rated.
My husband, Elisabeth and I were at playground near busy Bismarckplatz on Saturday. She’s only a year old and isn’t walking yet so what we can actually “play” on is slightly limited. Elisabeth loves to swing though. So we waited for one to free up. Behind us there were four boys playing soccer. It seemed like a pretty foolish place to play, in so tightly packed a playground. The soccer ball flew past us a few times, causing me to curse under my breath and mutter to my husband that he, the native German, would need to say something if that ball came anywhere near her again.
Elisabeth’s turn on the swing came and my husband pushed her higher and higher, which she absolutely loves. She laughed uproariously and kicked her little legs. There is nothing like a good swing on a sunny day to make you feel like all is right with the world. It’s a calming, peaceful act, the lull of being belted into a small swing and launched into the fresh air. There were other children in line waiting for the swing, however, so we finished our turn and headed to a large light green Jeep.
The Jeep is a silly thing. It’s painted with amusing drawings and is only an embarrassed shell of its former self but it has a wobbly seat and a steering wheel to it’s really quite cool. There’s also something about the largeness of it that makes it appealing. Just as my husband started to lower Elisabeth into the seat, the soccer-playing crowd of boys started to launch themselves onto the back of the Jeep, laughing wildly. I was furious. “Whoa, whoa,” I yelled. “Kinder! Take it easy.” I looked pointedly at the lead boy. He looked back but had the sense to quickly look down and away when he saw my anger. I have no idea if he spoke any English but he knew that I meant business. The boys scampered away from the Jeep and my husband put Elisabeth into the driver seat. I took a few pictures to document the hilarity for future laughs.
I learned two good lessons that day:
Even (especially?) if you’re a parent, never wait for someone else to step in. They might not and it might be your kid that gets hurt, physically or emotionally.
You don’t always have to speak the language to show people, especially kids, that you won’t tolerate their actions.
Maybe I had a fear that one of their parents might come over and tell me not to yell at their kids. More likely I was just waiting for my husband to yell at them. But that’s not his way. A confrontation, an advocacy, the need to right a wrong usually falls into my parenting camp, not his. That’s okay; I’m way better at it than he is anyway. Someday, when Elisabeth is older she will be embarrassed at her old mom yelling at other kids. Not that day though. That Saturday I think we were all happier that I did.