About me: I'm 42 and added another gherkin to our pickle party of a family. My husband Chuck, our 9-year-old Junior, our 6-year-old Everett, our toddler and I live in a town in Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite (aka my childhood hometown). My friends call me Nutjob, and they're right. In my husband's spare time he dresses up as a Viking and chases ghosts (and I'm the nutjob?). When I'm not busy working as a graphic designer, I lie in a ball in the corner.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Don't look at me like that, Mr. Beer!
You know what? Playgrounds are really stressful.
First I wasn’t sure what age Junior should be before I stuck him in a swing. Because I’m a freak, I falsely believed that any time before one year would warrant a phone call to DCF from some mother who was watching me from across the park and telling her friends, “I can’t believe she’s sticking her newborn in that death trap.”
Now that Junior’s a toddler who acts like an 80-year-old on the playground (seriously, he’s so cautious he reminds me of my grandfather piddling around his kitchen), I live in fear that he’ll get trampled.
But carrying around all that paranoia and angst is stressful, so I’m really trying not to be such a parental mental disaster. Instead of worrying that everyone is judging me for how I’m handling my child or that Junior is holding up the line at the slide, I’ve been seeing playgrounds as a chance for Junior to run free while I watch from the sidelines.
But you know what you hear when you sit back and just listen?
“Don’t scream, Billy! Use your inside voice.”
“Be CAREFUL, Samantha!”
“I told you not to jump on that!”
“Eric! Wait your turn!”
“Say sorry to that little boy for hitting him, Jamie!”
“Gregory Allen Smith! I said no yelling. We are leaving RIGHT NOW!”
“If you can’t go down the slide the right way, you’re not going down at ALL.”
“The swings are not meant to be used like that, Rickie!”
“Elizabeth, I said stop throwing rocks!”
“She was on it first. Now apologize for cutting her.”
“Did you just hit that boy? Did YOU?!”
“Jacob, he’s smaller than you. You HAVE to set a good example and NOT run UP the slide.”
“Don’t run so fast.”
“Don’t run so slow.”
Now, I’m a 34-year-old woman with ripened, fine-tuned coping skills (ahem) and sometimes I feel like beating my chest (or the parent in front of me) and screaming and running just to make the voices stop.
I’m not kidding.
So I’m asking nicely: Can we please give our children some breathing room at the playground? Can we let them run and fall and yell and shove each other without intervening? I know we’re trying to instill manners and proper etiquette but part of navigating a playground (and subsequently the world) is learning how to cope with others on our own.
And to the mother and father tag team who gave me “the look” yesterday for not supervising while their six-year-old son held Junior’s hand and helped him down the slide, your son was doing a fantastic job. His gentleness almost restored my faith in humanity and I almost walked over and said that, but I was happy in the moment.
Ahhhhhhhhhh. Imagine that.
From here on out, I've decided that if I’m going to go down the slide with my son or help him learn or cook or sew or grow or speak Prussian—anything!—I’d rather do it with my head outside of his ass. And I think that’s the best gift I can give him.
And playgrounds? So close to being done. Or bringing a 6-pack.