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Queen of the Playground

The littlest one in our household is also the child with the biggest personality, the most energy, and the least regard for decorum. At home, her exasperated siblings sometimes last only minutes playing her games. On the playground, though, where energy and creativity reign supreme, my daughter gets to rule in all her glory.

We’re at a crowded playground, where Jasmine has found two of the rowdiest boys and befriended them. They’re improvising some version of tag in which Jasmine is always It. She pretends to ignore the two boys, who then creep up behind her. When they get close enough, she turns around, everyone screams, and then she chases them.

I should be keeping an eye on my three other kids too, but Jasmine’s interactions with these two boys, who look several years older and inches taller, are far too compelling.

I watch her shadowboxing with one of the boys — pretending to duel when the other boy steps between them, puffs out his chest, and proclaims to Jasmine, “If you’re gonna start with him, you’re gonna have to get through me!”

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Jasmine shrugs her shoulders and takes off like a bolt of lightning. The older, taller boys are only barely able to outrun her.

This goes on and on for several more minutes before I realize Jasmine is calling all the shots. She announces the rules for the next stage of the game and the two older boys do exactly what she says. Occasionally they try to assert themselves, and Jasmine promptly walks off and plays by herself until they approach her and promise to do what she says.

Perhaps I should have stepped in, pulled Jasmine aside, and said something like: “Why don’t you take turns and play what the boys want to play for awhile?” But this never works at home either. As the youngest of four, her high energy and spunk are her best tools for keeping up with her brothers and sister. However, her three older siblings are quickly exhausted by Jasmine’s intensity and strong will. I’ve seen games of Uno and Sorry come to blows in under five minutes. It starts when one of her siblings shouts, “Jasmine! That’s not how you play!” Jasmine shouts, “Yes it is!” The sibling shouts, “I’m not going to play with you if you don’t play by the rules!” Jasmine retorts, “Fine!” slams down her game piece, and yells, “Dad!”

In our house, she is maybe too often dismissed as the annoying baby in the family. Here at the playground, I’m having fun watching her play with two perfect strangers who are amused by her antics. That is until Jasmine and her two partners-in-crime find the groundskeeper’s building, where there’s a stash of garden hoses. Jasmine is aiming the end of the hose at one of the boys and shouting at the other to find the faucet when I decide this might be a good time to step in.

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