The Park: Observations from a new mom

Children playing at the park

One of the strangest parenting experiences I’ve had so far is the park. We’ve been going every weekend since H arrived, so I’ve been 6 or so times now. Each time, I find it stranger than the last.

“What is so strange about the park?” you may ask. Well, read on.

ONE: The parents don’t speak.

Being at the park reminds me of the subway in New York. Everyone is hanging out in close quarters but no one is speaking to each other. On the subway, however, it makes sense. You’re on it for an hour or so. Plus, you have earbuds in or your laptop open, which isn’t really conducive to starting a conversation.

You could find yourself at the park for 2 or 3 hours, however. And you can’t really focus on anything else (more on that in point 4) so you’re just huddled on the sideline with your coffee, not talking to the person 3 feet away, but not doing anything else either.

Now, I’m not from the south. Every time the cashier at Publix rings up something and then asks “are you having a party?” it completely throws me off because why is this STRANGER commenting on my groceries? But even so, I find it incredibly odd that you stand next to someone for hours and not say a word.

Part of this is on me, I’m sure. I could say something. But I’m the newbie (even if my kid is 4). I looked around for context clues the first couple of weeks and came to the conclusion that I would be the weirdo if I just struck up a convo. People just don’t do it.

TWO: Parents don’t play with their kids.

If I went to the park and no one was there but me and H, I would totally go down the slide and swing on the monkey bars. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable park behavior.

Instead, parents are expected to stand there while their kids get to run around. I don’t have any stats to back this up, but maybe this is where the obesity problem is coming from.

Even if I skipped the monkey bars and opted instead for some casual lunges around the park perimeter, it would get some stares. You’re unofficially expected to stand or sit there until your feet or your butt go numb.

The ONLY parents I’ve seen actually playing with their kids in the park are the helicopter moms who are SUPER concerned some bigger kid might knock poor Johnny over, so they literally follow around their kid like a shadow and (the worst part IMO) even make the kids go down the slide sitting between their legs.

I guess it’s in case the kid got a wild hair to LEAP off the slide, they wouldn’t be able to because the mother has gone to years of yoga and her inner thighs are like steel traps, the muscles specifically developed to keep kids from escaping.

THREE: You know the other kids’ names.

This kind of ties into the weirdness from point one. You have no clue who these parents are but I can tell you all about Gabby. She’s 3 AND A HALF. She has a puppy. Sometimes he pees in the house. She doesn’t like getting her shoes wet.

FOUR: Parks are super dangerous.

H plays at the park as I sit there, my butt going numb
H plays at a local Tallahassee park as I sit there watching, my butt going numb.

So maybe, just maybe, the parents don’t talk because they are watching their kids so intently since deep down they know they’ve brought them to a death trap that could mangle, maim or kill their child at any minute.

Seriously, who designs these things? I know they got rid of teeter totters and those metal spinning circles but I literally watched a 7 year old girl leap from the platform to the monkey bars, miss by an inch, fall flat on her face and get the wind knocked out of her for a good 2 minutes. She didn’t even cry she was so stunned. Just sat there gaping while I ran over and frantically looked around (where was the helicopter parent when you need them?) for a responsible adult.

After I sat her up and dusted her off as best I could, a dad came running up (surprise), checked her vitals and then (surprise again) didn’t say a word to me EVEN THOUGH WE WERE BOTH THERE for a good bit after the fall!

FIVE: There’s always a brat using the equipment inappropriately.

I want to know who keeps bringing their 11 year old to a park filled with 4-7 year olds. Sign your kid up for organized sports. Their motor skills are developed, ok? All they do is climb the wrong way up the slide, throw tennis balls and teach my kid bad behavior.

I’m going to scold them. Don’t put it past me. And you’ll either let me reprimand your kid for breaking the rules or it’ll force you to talk to me.

Either way, I win. Haha.

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