What kind of playground parent are you? Do you stick your nose in a book or gab on your phone while your kids run amok? Do you throw out the blanket, arrange the snacks, and wave at Little Johnny while he runs up the steps and zooms down the slide over and over again? Do you stay within an arms reach wherever your precious kiddo goes, just in case he needs you?
Gosh, I make all those sound not so pleasant. In reality, though, they're all fine ways to parent - maybe. I think there are lots of ways to watch your children and still be a good parent. The key is not going overboard and not judging the rest of us out loud.
I've done all that, and probably all of it in the last week! But the thing that's gotten under my skin is the parent, and there's at least one at every playground, who felt the need to comment on what I was doing. And that commented intentionally loud enough so that I'd over hear.
"Doesn't it bother you when people hop on their phone as soon as they get to the park? Huf."
Maybe she wasn't talking about about me, but I was on my phone ten feet away when she said it. And I knew where all my kids were, and none of them were beating on her kid, that she was following so closely that if he'd turned around he would have run into her!
"I think that boy wants help but (looking around) his mom doesn't seem to be around."
Jace was studying a big round log and two longer narrower limbs, trying to figure out what to do with them that would be totally cool. And I wasn't anywhere around. I was sitting on my blanket, talking to some other mom's and waving at Tyler who was yelling from the top of his pirate ship and at Gracie who wanted me to see how high she had climbed. Jace hadn't asked for help and I didn't offer. Instead I watched him too. And he tried a few different things and finally managed to make himself a nice little ramp with which he rolled another log up and which created some wonderful noise, including his excited exclamation of, "Mama! Come see what I made!" I did.
And on the way over I heard, "I can't believe she's letting him play like that. It could be dangerous." Puh-lease. I didn't say it to her, but I wanted to. Instead I praised Jace's creativity and gave him some more challenges to try to figure out with the dangerous pieced of wood, loud enough so she could hear of course.
I question quite frequently why we can't just all get along! Why can't we simply appreciate that I parent my way and you parent yours. Sometimes I want to say to someone, "Let your toddler explore. So what if she eats a little dirt?" or "I don't think your nine year old should be in the soft play area." But I don't. Unless there's a mean kid or an altercation of some sort I try to let parents be parents in their own way. That toddler will toddle away at some point and the only ones really bothered by the too-big kid on the playground are my too-big kids that I won't let on there. No biggie. It's not the last thing that will irk them about my parenting!
So, how do you parent in public, really? Do you have rules of thumb that you play by while your kids are playing?