A brief recap of my first time shouting at a Peruvian child for his inexcusable misbehavior.
I took my two-year-old son to the neighborhood playground in Lima. He was enjoying himself on the playground equipment near the top of a short slide.
Then a boy of at least 12 years and 100 pounds (if not 120) bounded up the slide at full speed, ducking the roof before emerging on the bridge platform and colliding with my son hard enough to put him on his butt.
“¡Oye! ¿Puedes tener cuidado con mi hijo por favor?” I shouted.
The boy fled through a tunnel connecting the slide to a different platform featuring monkey bars and a taller slide. My boy did not cry in what I would like to attribute to him being a chip off the old block, but I know it would have been a different story if his Peruvian mother were present.
I immediately realized that the entire playground, quite crowded on a Friday night, and possibly other park visitors outside the playground had certainly heard me.
I had shouted loud enough to hear my own voice over the Marketplace podcast blaring into my earphones, which I always set to the loudest volume setting when at this playground in order to hear my news program over the screaming children.
I turned off my iPod to ready myself in case the parents of the boy I screamed at approached me. I identified who the boy’s guardians when a trio of adults seated on a bench called him over shortly after the incident.
However they proved to be sensible people who realized that their boy was at fault in the accident. While I did not catch the entire conversation, I did hear an audible “niños” that seemed to be directed more at me than their boy.
While I regretted screaming in the way that I did — having lost control after seeing my boy plowed over by a pubescent young adult — other parents in the playground certainly applauded me in their hearts and minds.
As I have learned as a relatively new father, parents talk a lot with other parents. And a common complaint at this park comes from parents of small children who are at risk of being trampled by larger children who are not careful of the toddlers the park was built for. At least five different parents have complained to me about this issue.
In fact, the more protective parents avoid this playground during the peak hours when larger children are more likely to accumulate and play at a speed and intensity where a 100-pound child could draw blood from a toddler.
Most of these Lima playgrounds have “Juegos Infantiles” signs saying the equipment is for children under 10 years old. This sign formed the basis of the arguments I mentally prepared in case of a possible confrontation with the parents of the boy I yelled at.
Knowing how I get when angry, that “¡Demostrar su cultura!” argument surely would have been voiced louder than my initial shouting given it would have been directed at adults.
Fortunately they were sensible people who appropriately corrected the behavior of their boy, who is probably a nice boy in any case.
On Latin vs. Gringo Culture
As I alluded to, the adolescent who hit my boy is not at all alone in being old enough to be masturbating yet still plays on playground equipment as if he were a small child.
When I was 12 or 13, I wouldn’t want to be seen with my parents at a children’s playground. My friends and I would have looked for permission to roam the park in order to look for other boys and girls our age to say talk tough with, set small fires or even scrounge for cigarettes. Playing on a jungle gym among small children would have been a horrifying embarrassment.
But we expats in Latin America generally chose to live here precisely because Latins are a more fun people whose immaturity manifests in other ways than pretension. One attitude I hope my boy never adopts is the too-cool-for-school aspect American youngsters get when it comes to being seen with their parents.
This boy certainly was not a cold gringo.
While an adolescent bounding up a slide in a game of tag seems absurd to cold gringos, Latin America’s warm culture manifests itself in ways ultimately attractive enough to draw us expats to live here, and to draw you to this blog.
Living among the cold gringos of the United States, northern Europe or wherever you’re from can be just as annoying, but I don’t seem to write about those confrontations.
I have just decided to expose the misbehaving gringos of my own country during my recent sabbatical in the United States. Stay tuned for an abbreviated roundup of those incidents.