Why I Both Love and Hate the Park

 The park.

It’s at once a glorious and heinous place to be. A lot of things about parenting are complicated, and taking your kids to the park is no exception. I love taking my kids to the park because they can run and burn off energy while I sit there and do nothing.  Although in reality I end up doing all the work by pushing them on the swing while they just sit there.  Oh well, they sure do love them some swinging time.

But what I really love/hate about the park are the other kids/parents.

Sometimes you meet nice people who are enjoyable to talk to and your kids find other friends to play with and everyone has a blast. But sometimes you end up with mean kids and the idiot parents on both extremes of the parental spectrum.

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The extreme parents include the over-involved and the under-involved.

The over-involved parents aren’t just hovering over their own kids, but are hovering over yours too. The under-involved parents let their kids get away with, not murder, but certainly assault and battery. As far as the over-involved ones go,  I appreciate the occasional friendly reminder to my child to be nice, or them rescuing my friend’s toddler from certain death from stepping off the opening for the fire pole.  But when my kid falls onto the wood chips, is climbing “too high,” or jumped off the swing, they aren’t gonna die.  And just because someone else’s kid unthinkingly went down the slide a little too close to your kid doesn’t mean you have to yell at them and berate them incessantly.  I’ll admit (you can go ahead and hate me now) I actually let my kids walk UP the slide.  They love it!  But I only let them do it when no one else wants to slide, if other children are trying to go down then forget about it.

As for the under-involved parent, their kids run amok causing destruction everywhere they go.

Kids come crying to their parents that they got punched in the face (with the red marks to prove it), and little ones are blocked from sliding, called names, and made fun of for their pwecious toddwer accents!  Everyone of these scenarios really happened, and I am appalled I tell you! Where are their parents?! MY kids would NEVER act THIS way! Although Princess does tend to use social ostracization to get her way, but we’re working on that. Really, you can’t always control what your kids do, however,  you can sure as heck put them in timeout, or lock them in their car seat, or LEAVE if things are getting out of hand.

Today* at the park there were a plethora of parents on every level of the parenting spectrum.

There was the nice lady who smiled at me, the grandma who talked to me, the mom who, when her child “jumped off the swing ” (more like fell), she just said, “Good Job!” and he ran off feeling successful.  And then there was the mom (I just love this woman) who totally let her kid take off her shoes (!) and wasn’t jumping on top of her 6 year old as she climbed the OUTSIDE of the tube slide, but at the same time was very attentive to her little 1-yr-old, and left other people’s kids alone, except when one of them tried to take a step off the fire-pole opening.

And then there were those extreme parents. Like the whole family that was interrogating the kids that were too close to their kid on the slide, the parents of the boy who kept punching other kids in the face (where were they?!), and the parents of “Little Bruiser.”

Little Bruiser was a sweet looking little boy who was probably about 2. He toddled around the wood chip laden playground doing no harm to anyone.  But I can only guess that this wasn’t good enough for the parents. They want him to be a “bruiser.” They don’t want toddler sweetness, they want violence! Right? Otherwise, why would they have him wear a picture of brass knuckles on his shirt?

When I first saw the shirt I was like, Little Bruiser, hmmm…wait, are those…brass knuckles?!  Why on earth would you have your 2-yr-old wear a shirt like this? It’s a potential felony to posses “metal knuckles” in the state of California. I suppose it’s OK for them to wear a marijuana-leaf shirt too, although, at least marijuana doesn’t break other people’s cheek bones and aren’t (according to Wikipedia) intended to result in “increased tissue disruption.” Maybe the shirt should have said, “Little Felon” or “Little mandible-breaker.” I understand wanting your little boy to be tough or be able to stand up for himself or be masculine. But an advocate of illegal weaponry?

That shirt was quite a contrast to the shirt one little boy was wearing that had a frog wearing a crown and said, “Little Prince.” Not coincidentally, his mom was the one who smiled at me. Apples don’t fall too far from the tree and parents really need think about what effect their actions and decisions have on their kids. Do Little Bruisers parents really want him to grow up to be a felon? Probably not. But I’d want him to be more than just not-a-felon. I’d rather him be gentlemanly and kind, like a prince. The way I’m hoping Little Prince might end up being.

I guess that’s why I both love and hate the park, you get all kinds of people there: princes and bruisers included.

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*Originally published in February 2012

 

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