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.

Imagine that.

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.


Ashley said...

Just put your wine in a Starbucks (or in my case EZ Mart Coffee) cup and sip innocently.

That's what I always did.

Wait, no I never did that. I don't drink at playgrounds. That would just be wrong. Sort of.

Keely said...

Yeah, I can't. Yours is 80 years old, but mine is still 2. He doesn't STAY on the playground. So I'm more than happy to let him interact with other kids without intervention, but I can't stand on the sidelines or he'll cross the playground and be out the other side and into traffic before I can have a sip of my beer. Er, coffee.

Jenera said...

I used to be the mom being super anal. But I've learned to sit back for the most part and it's funny the looks I get too. If another kid is being a bully, he shakes it off. If it keeps up, I wait for the kids parent to say something. If it still keeps up then I mention to the kid in a not so quiet voice to not be a jerk. Well, maybe not in those words exactly.

kyooty said...

I'm sorry I had to yell at my kids :P

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

I have decided most parents are idiots. Controlling, over-protective, believing they are the best, blahblahblah.

Just do what you feel is right, ignore everyone else, and all will be wonderful in the world. That's what I do. And although that may be why I have no friends, I don't care. :o)

feefifoto said...

If some kid shoved mine or threw rocks at her I'd certainly expect that child's parent to intervene, just as I would intervene if my kid terrorized someone else's. Sorry -- shoving, hitting and throwing rocks at other children is never okay with me. Manners are expected at the playground just like anywhere else. My son nearly got thrown down a flight of stairs once by some kid whose mother wasn't supervising him.

We used to enjoy ice skating, but we had to quit because we took our lives into our own hands every time we got on the ice with teenagers who fancied themselves NHL professionals, cutting across other skaters and indiscriminately executing violent hockey stops without bothering to consider that some child or adult might be sent flying.

Now, the inside voice thing on a playground is ridiculous, I agree.

Pricilla said...

And then they wonder why the kid(s) never leave home.

Good for you.

Jen said...

I learned the other day the number one reasons kids break a leg in the early years if from sliding down the slide with their parents. Ask a doctor it's true, the little one gets a leg wrapped in mom's leg and they hit the bottom wrong and the next thing you know off the ER. Just sayin'

But yeah, parents need to let the kids figure things out on their own and the playground is the best place to do that.

Buggys said...

There is a lot of wisdom in "backing off", I believe anyway. I think the whole point in parenting is to teach your children how to make proper decisions not to make each decision for them. Which is exactly what you are saying. So many kids/teenagers/young adults don't know how to transition to adulthood.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Heh, you are lucky you have an 80-year-old-wannabe toddler. I usually let my kids wander at the park with a watchful eye, and I don't usually intervene unless they look like they're about to REALLY hurt themselves (which doesn't include falling off the monkey bars but does include walking into the path of a kid twice their size on the swings). But if another kid shoved my kid down and his parent didn't jump in, you can betcha I would. Or if some kid told mine, "you are being so gay" or "you are being an asshole" because they've heard those words but don't know what they're used for, you can also betcha that I'd intervene.

I think the playground should be for fun play. I think it sucks that we - parents - need to monitor so closely to make up for the parents who don't. Seriously, sometimes I get the funny look for not keeping a closer eye on my kids but really I am, I'm just watching them. But I also am trying to keep them from being forced to experience the ugliness of humanity one minute before they have to.

It's just part of me, as their mom. I can't help it.

Shana said...

I so don't want to be the anal mom but I worry. it took me twelve years to have him and I don't want him to fall from something high up and break his neck. I know in my head that all kids fall but he already broke his arm when he was 14 months and that was no fun. How do I let him just go on a playground? I am not being snarky for real! I am serious, how do you do it and not worry yourself to death. Now at home even outside I let him do his thing. I don't come running at the least little fall I tell him to get up and dust himself off and try again. it is just when we are out at big parks and things that I worry. What do you do to make yourself stand back?

A Mom on Spin said...

Well said, my friend.

And thanks for reminding me of things I DON'T miss about those days.

blognut said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you! You HAVE to let the kids learn to make their own way, and the playground is a perfectly logical place to start!

Anonymous said...

I think the playground should be much more than running and kicking. It's the perfect chance for kids to learn social skills. Most parents are right there watching anyway but need we bark out orders during funtime as well? Gosh, give em a break.
I think most kids know well enough to scream, "hey mom, help."
That's when I come running with a cape on.

Suzi said...

I so get that. I live on 5 acres and I just turn the kids out, little to no supervision. It's great. If they get hurt, they'll learn from the experience. It's all about them developing autonomy!

Mrsbear said...

It's a fine line. I'm all for letting them gain their independence. My two year old does fairly well, all things considered. I mean he did fall in to a fire ant pile this afternoon but survived none worse for the wear. If he were being a total dillhole to someone else's kid though, I'd be forced to speak up or smack down depending on the situation, I'd also expect the same courtesy from other parents.

Mammatalk said...

I love it! I love it! Well said!

Madge said...

one of the best things about my boys being 11 and 7?
no. more. playgrounds.

Frogs in my formula said...

I probably shouldn't have included shoving. I agree you should intervene if bullying/pushing/rock throwing/swearing start happening. But holding your kid's hand as they maneuver and instructing them on how to play/behave THE WHOLE TIME is ridiculous.

Lindy said...

I've learned to back off too.

I used to get so stressed out so I can't imagine what my kid felt like as I let her "play."

Anonymous said...


Mine is definitely not cautious but he's learning with intermittent direction from me.

Like everyone else...I tend to jump when mine is getting too rough with a younger one or when someone bigger is getting too rough with him but otherwise, it's a free-for-all while I watch like a hawk.

Sara said...

I am that mom that sits back and watches. Mine are 3 & 4 yo and they do really well on the playground by themselves and with other kids. When they were a little smaller and less able to navigate, then I was a helicopter parent. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree. LEave the kids alone. Quit barking orders at them and let them play. How fun do you people think it is to play while people holler at you the whole time?

Ugh. I hate parents who don't do anything but gripe at their kids the whole time.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, and if someone tries to bully my 2 year old? I tell her to "fight back". Not that she really has to be told that. She's a lot like me. lol.

JW.BW said...

I always bring a drink (in my conceiling roady cup of course) when we take the kids to the play ground or the skate park.

Dont judge :-)

Trac~ said...

I have to agree with the other posters - put your wine/beer in your coffee cup, etc. and just relax while you allow your child to actually BE a child and not be up his butt constantly! Unfortunately, my husband is one of "those" overprotective parents while I am the one on the park bench sipping wine out of my coffee cup! HA!

Grand Pooba said...

Hahaha! Or both!

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

Oh, this is the neverending dilemma. Be just the right amount of attentive without being overbearing. I really do try so hard.

MelCole said...

i will fight for my child...lols...

Dto3 said...

You forgot... Johnny, did you just sell Sally pot? Well, did you?

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