DEAR MISS MANNERS: At our local farmers market, I took my young children to the playground structure to burn off some energy after being in the stroller for some time. There was a small line of toddlers and preschoolers waiting in line to go down the slide.
When my child was second in line, an older girl (maybe in first or second grade) started climbing up the slide and actually stepped over the small toddler who was first in line. I looked around and didn’t see her parents (at least anyone correcting her), and as she started stepping over my son, I said, “Honey, it is not kind to step over the other kids.”
I normally don’t get involved with playground issues unless there is actual danger, but felt that something had to be said; however, the mother of the toddler in line gave me a strange look. I have spent the time since second-guessing myself on whether I should have let this older girl continue to climb over the small kids and hold up the line to go down the slide. Did I do the correct thing?
GENTLE READER: You did. Miss Manners hopes that this is reassurance enough, as you are unlikely to find support anywhere else on the playground, unless perhaps from the squashed toddler.
There is a general ban against parenting other people’s children, with the exception being, as you correctly cite, imminent danger. But “imminent danger” can be expanded to include stepping over (or on) your child -- so long as you confine yourself to a polite, verbal correction, as you did. At the very least, you will have avoided accusations by your own toddlers in later years that you never stuck up for them.