Let me preface this entire post with two important facts :: my children are not perfect angels, and we have historically had an absolute blast at the splash pad in question. But today was a level of craziness that I have never – I mean NEVER – in my 4.5 years of parenting experienced. Our playdate was kicked out of a splash pad because our kids were being … kids.
Our playdate, which consisted of 4 moms and 9 children, arrived to the splash pad around 3:30pm. We were lucky enough to score a spot in the shade, where the moms settled in with our bajillion belongings before letting the kids loose. Our children were genuinely behaving like average preschoolers. Yes, there are two sides to every story, and I firmly believe in disciplining children in public and following rules. Hell, I am even okay with strangers / museum employees / friends telling my kids to mind their manners.
I am also the very first mom to admit that my children are strong willed, energetic and some may even say wild. I am okay with that. If anything, I sometimes feel pretty guilty for the way I talk about them because they can 100% be a handful. I know how babies are conceived, and I chose to have 3 children in 3 years. No one said it would be easy, and I certainly never expected taking them in public to be some walk in the park. But I also have never been kicked out of any New Orleans area attraction, humiliated or talked to the way I was today.
It all began when one mom in our group was asked to leave the splash pad to change her daughter’s diaper because – and I quote – “there may be weirdos watching with video cameras, and you just don’t know who’s here.” So with no other choice than to leave the splash pad entirely, my friend left to change a diaper.
When she was gone, her son was reprimanded firmly and put in time out by the splash pad attendant for running. I personally don’t think preschoolers running at a splash pad is wrong per se, but I certainly do not think it was her place to put my friend’s son in time out for running through water. Talk about over-stepping a major boundary. When my friend returned, she let the attendant know that she did not appreciate her disciplining her son in her absence, to which the attendant responded “well, I wouldn’t have put him in time out if you had control over him.” Um yes. Those words came out of the attendant’s mouth. From there, the entire playdate descended into a crazy series of events that went something like this…
The attendant approached me and asked who the “boy in the blue” belonged to. She then informed me that I needed to get him to stop running or leave. I explained that asking a preschooler not to run is like asking a puppy not to jump but that I’d be happy to remind him, which I did. Her reply? “What? You can’t control your children?”
Let that sink in for a minute. I was speechless, to say the least.
A few minutes later, she came over to ask me if I could please put my 2 year old in timeout for shoving a 6 or 7 year old boy who had HIT her. I watched the whole thing unfold, and I was prepared to jump if needed. Again, I told the attendant that I would appreciate it if she could possibly intervene with the little boy’s mom since he clearly was bigger and older and stronger. She then laughed at us, mocked us and otherwise made us feel little. Her tone was beyond condescending, she repeatedly told us that our children were out of control, she more than once suggested that we couldn’t manage our kids and even went as far as to say that we shouldn’t be at the splash pad if we couldn’t reign them in.
Because that tirade from her wasn’t quite enough, she came back moments later. The offense this time? My children were playing peacefully, pushing each other and giggling while SITTING. I feel the need to emphasize sitting since by this point we had successfully gotten our kids to stop running. But the attendant wanted me to intervene and ask my kids to stop touching each other. Yes, she asked me – in an incredibly demeaning tone – to please discipline my kids who were playing with no one else but themselves.
She said not once but probably six times that our group couldn’t “control” our children, that we couldn’t “manage” them and that we were not disciplining them enough. We didn’t realize we had gone to the splash pad for a parenting lesson, but we certainly got one.
When I said that I wasn’t going to intervene in my children’s “game,” she called security. Yes, you read that correctly. She called park security on our group. She created a major scene where none needed to exist. She escalated something that needed zero escalation. She insisted we leave for “not following the rules.” Apparently two children are not allowed to play happily together at this splash pad. Watching two of my children play together today tells me that I must be doing something right on this parenting journey, and while I am always open to advice and know I can improve as a mother … I don’t need it from a splash pad attendant.
The entire thing sounds so outrageous as I type this that I am certain anyone reading would assume that we must have done something wrong. But you know what? I am proud to say that my children were being children. Joyful, energetic, fun-loving, RUNNING, loud, giggling children. Yes, my kids (and their friends) were running and being their “wild” little selves. But they were not hurting other children, they were not bullying anyone, they were not crying; they were kids being kids on a hot New Orleans day. It was humid as hell, the water was flowing and they were just trying to have fun.
And that’s the thing with kids, especially preschoolers and toddlers. They can’t read “rule” signs (which we didn’t see anyway, but that’s not the point). They aren’t born knowing precisely what’s “okay” or acceptable. It’s our job to teach them, guide them, mold them, parent them. That’s why we take them in public and give them the opportunity to “mess up” and learn.
But you know what? I am NEVER going to tell my kids not to jump into life feet first. I will correct them when they mis-step, of course, but I WANT my kids to live life loudly and fully. I hope and pray that they always seize the moment, enjoy moments for what they are and create joy wherever they go.
And if those things get you kicked out of the splash pad? So be it. But I can assure you it won’t be this splash pad again because we will not return any time soon.