Being Watched at the Playground
Too young to know better
I was about eight years old at the time of this incident and my baby sister was about three years old. We were living in an apartment complex in St. Louis, Missouri which had a playground out back that we’d often frequent. These were the days when parents would send their kids outdoors to play and get fresh air , all day long, just coming in for snacks or to use the toilet. My dad said he was too busy to take us to the playground and asked me to take my sister and supervise her. I took my sister‘shand as we walked to the playground.
I was a skinny child, lanky and lean and a “tomboy” of sorts, loving to climb trees, play hide and seek and enjoyed being outdoors. My sister, who is five years younger than me, was a chunky little toddler. She loved being with me and loved copying what I did as she admired me as her big sister.
We were both excited to be outdoors and free to play together although I did have some resentment about having to be guardian of my sister and felt the responsibility of this task. On the day of this incident I climbed the steps of the aluminum slide and slid through the handle bars and jumped down onto the sand. It was exhilarating and I wanted to do it again. All of a sudden I looked up to see that my sister was climbing up the ladder of the slide and maneuvered under the handle bars and became stuck! I yelled for help as I struggled to free her from the handlebars and got her down to safety, but she had a gash across her belly and it was bleeding.
I grabbed her hand and we ran to our apartment where our dad was and my sister and I both were crying. My dad took hold of my sister and proceeded to scold me saying that I had forced my sister through the handlebars knowing that she was too young to do that, implying that I intended her harm. I plead my innocence to no avail. My dad then dialed, what I now believe was the telephone operator, trying to gain corroboration that I forced my sister to get harmed. I got so angry at not being believed and to this day I get upset when falsely accused when not believed, and I’m not sure that these feelings will ever go away. For the longest time into adulthood I’ve felt responsible for my sisters‘ safety and became quite codependent in the process.
Theories and Memories
Although this incident took place over fifty years ago in my mind I can witness it as happening yesterday. Harsh words and recriminations have lasting effects on people especially on a child. I remember feelings of guilt, shame and anger that arose. I asked myself why wasn’t dad supervising my sister on the playground and why was it my responsibility to care for her unaided by my parents. I ask myself where was my mother during dad’s outburst and why didn’t she intervene on my behalf.
All I know is that his blaming and shaming left scars upon my psyche which manifest professionally and in my personal life and left me doubting my honesty at times. Always hyper vigilant to others to determine their authenticity and honesty. Words can leave lasting scars unknown to the person shaming and blaming others.