What kind of playground mom do I want to be?

Yesterday after a crazy day at work, I mustered all my strength and decided to take Baby E to the park when I got home. There was perfect weather and the park was full of kids of all ages. At the park there is an area for toddlers, which consists of a baby slide and a few steps to go up to the slide. Think of regular park gym, but in miniature. Baby E was having a glorious time, up the steps, and then down the slide and then up the slide on his knees, until he would realize he could not keep going up, so momma stepped in to give his tush a push… up he went. Slowly, older kids started migrating from their side of the park. First one girl (maybe 4? 5?) she was cute, quiet, not obnoxious… then more girls… older, not quiet, and (sorry to say this) a bit obnoxious… why? Well, first off, the park is big, this slide and this area were clearly not meant for kids their size… they never pushed or yelled at my son, but did occupy his space. He couldn’t go down the slide anymore… they were sitting there, like it belonged to them. I was so annoyed… I thought about telling them to move… but honestly, I was too tired and I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. My son was not visibly upset; he just stood there trying to figure out what to do… sit on the slide? Not slide down the slide… no room to go anywhere! I took that as an opportunity to take him to the swings, which I love because a. they are fun and b. he’s contained and not running around all over the place!

The swings were great because Baby E surprised me with a new word: he looked up and he said “Arbol” (ok, it was more like A BOL) he kept looking up and saying it… I could not believe it… because I had never told him that a tree was an árbol… it was a magical moment. Any new word is great really, but this was a word I had never taught him… I wondered if Diego (Dora the Explorer’s cousin) had talked about árboles on his show, maybe that is where he picked it up… when I got home I asked his abuela if she had taught it to him… this morning I realized that it was our babysitter who had said ARBOL to him, she repeated it every time she takes him to the window to wave goodbye to me as I leave for work. I was so happy that I briefly forgot the slide incident.

Last night after I put my son to bed, I kept thinking about it—how am I going to react when more of these instances occur? I mean, there will be kids who act in total disregard for other children, be it the same age, or smaller. There are kids who push, shove, don’t wait their turn, etc. How am I going to respond to this? Am I going to be the mom who gets into fights with other parents because I say something to their kids? The thing is, some parents do not like it when another parent makes a comment to a child. If I had said something, would a mom have come to me, huffing and puffing and asking me why I am bothering her child? And if yes, how would I react? Can I just be the bigger person and walk away, not be confrontational?

I guess I am annoyed at the parents too. I mean, where were they? Were they not keeping an eye on their kids? They could have said, “honey, look there’s a baby, why don’t you go over there?” Really it is all about education and it starts in the home!  Educating and teaching your kids what is right and what is wrong, teaching them empathy. I mean, yes, kids will be kids, but if your parents teach you and repeat it over and over again, some things do stick! (It’s the little voice inside your head that tells you “don’t do that!”)

If my son (an older version of my son) had been playing in an area that was designated for smaller children, and there were smaller children around, I probably would have said “be careful” and encouraged him (first encouraged nicely and then told him firmly) to move to another area, because, I would explain, we don’t want to hurt the small child, and there are areas especially for bigger kids. I would not, I don’t think, be upset if another parent had asked my son to move, or said something to him if he had been acting up or invading another child’s space. After all, every parent is looking out for his/her child. The thing that would upset me would be HOW the parent was speaking to my son. I guess it would depend on the tone and volume of the voice. If you’re screaming at my child, then of course I would be pissed… I wouldn’t want anyone screaming at my child, unless there’s a natural disaster, and you are screaming to get someone’s attention. 

Parenting really is a juggling act, isn’t it? It is making decisions every day that will affect your child’s upbringing and have an impact on how he/she lives in the world and interacts with others. If I am lose my calm and explode at the park what am I teaching my son? That it is OK to explode like that, and get into a fight?  If I walk away, what am I saying, am I not standing up for myself? OY. Even the simplest things require so much thought.

Who knew a 25 minute playground visit could bring up all these questions?  Should I have said something to those little girls? Am I right to be annoyed they were at the baby slide? What kind of playground mom am I going to be? Would love to hear your thoughts… what kind of playground parent are you? 

(just for the record, If I had said something to the girls, I would have been very nice about it… I just don’t want to deal with crazy parents screaming at me because I am talking to their kid… maybe we need some ground rules… playground etiquette.)

Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.

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