The Day Our Playdate Got Kicked Out of The Splash Pad

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 PUSH YOURSELF TO THE LIMITher 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.

But tell our playdate :: how would YOU have handled this? And, the real question is :: is not running at a splash pad a reasonable expectation for kids? We’d love to hear!

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Ashley is the Co-Owner of New Orleans Mom, Red Stick Mom and Lafayette Mom, now the largest network of parenting websites in South Louisiana. Proud graduates of the University of Virginia, she and her husband Blaise spent time in Tampa and Scottsdale prior to settling down back home in New Orleans, something they both said "would never happen." An avid runner, she'll try any workout at least once and is always up for sweating with friends. When she’s not shuttling her 3 very active kids to school, gymnastics or baseball, you can find her cheering for the Saints, trying new restaurants or spending time with family and friends. She's also not afraid to return mediocre books to the library before finishing them because life is too short for bad books. A native New Orleanian, Ashley loves exploring and discovering the beauty of South Louisiana through her growing children's eyes.

50 COMMENTS

  1. Changing diapers anywhere near a public source of water is a health code violation and one which was correctly enforced. Recreational Water Illnesses are serious and one diaper change with leakage into said body of water can ruin the splash pad experience for everyone as the water has to be treated (Tax payer burden) and shut down so individuals do not become sick. The rules are more than likely posted somewhere in the facility unbeknownst to the parents, but who reads signs? An aquatic professional would read this story and probably make one corrective action: educate the attendant on how to more effectively engage with the general public. Otherwise from the story the attendant acts within their scope of duty. Time outs and enforcing rules are appropriate in the recreation field. Wait until the Model Aquatic Health Codes are a requirement for all splash pads. One of the newer regulations recommends a “Splash Pad Attendant” at ALL splash pads. All too often parents show up to the pool and let their children “loose” with little to no immediate supervision. Meaning, the parent sits in the shade having conversation and tries to enforce rules at a distance by shouting. This is generally ineffective, which is why the rule sign, which may or may not have been read,probably states the parents needs to be within arms reach at all times. My two cents as a parents and recreational professional.

    • I am the mom who needed to change her child’s diaper. I was changing it AWAY from the water source and practically under a bench to keep her a) mostly out of view b) away from the water and c) still be able to keep an eye on my other two children. I was going to (and did) dispose of said diaper in a garbage can away from the water source. However, if you know anything about swim diapers, you know that they are a minor barrier and by no means leak proof. So, by your logic, all of the babies and toddlers who were not potty trained should not be allowed to use the splash pad because that leakage could contaminate an entire water park. And with that being said, all of the potty trained children who urinate in the water rather than use the potty are contaminating it already, so we should probably just shut the whole thing down.
      The attendant said that there were “sick people” and “weirdos” in the park and that I was exposing my child. Perhaps they need to increase security to keep these individuals out of the park rather than harassing parents who are paying for an outing with their children and monitoring them. AND, by the way, hauling three wet (and screaming because I’m making them leave the splash pad) children into a public toilet to change a diaper and trying to keep the other ones from touching ANYTHING in said public (ew) restroom is a hygiene nightmare. By chance, what are the standards for this? Are they posted anywhere for EMPLOYEES who are supposed to be keeping these restrooms sanitary for the public? I didn’t see them, so maybe they don’t know what the rules are for cleaning up. We may have been sitting on a bench chatting, but we were NOT ignoring the behavior of our children. We were correcting them as needed. I teach my children the rules and enforce them as do the other mothers I was with. They are not always angels; whose are? But they were following directions and skipping (not running, we corrected that) and spinning happily in the fountains. I refuse to helicopter parent. That only teaches them that I’m monitoring their every move and don’t trust them or think they can make friends on their own. And have you tried to keep three children all within arms reach? Not even a helicopter parent can do that unless they’re tethered to him/her. That’s healthy parenting. This was not a case of parents behaving inappropriately. This was and is a case of a park employee on a power trip. And you can actually see other families ON THE VIDEO (that one of our mothers filmed because of security being calle)d leaving because of what was happening with the overzealous employee. And now you know the rest of the story.

    • Thank you Scuba Steve, I agree. Although this particular woman sounds like she may need sensitivity training, the diaper issue is just plain gross.(yes, I’m a mother, find a restroom.) And the arms length rule around ANY water for young children should be standard. God forbid your precious Apple or Pear fall causing serious injury while you and the other moms discuss who has the best sale on diapers this week. If you child or children can not follow simple directives after being warned with consequence, then you need to stay home and practice that lesson. Sorry for my bluntness, but I have worked in childcare for 15 years until having my own, tried going back and realized it wasn’t worth the headache teaching manners and discipline all week to wonderful kids willing to learn only to come back after a weekend of calling all the shots at home thinking the rules no longer apply bc they are the masters of the universe around mom and dad. PS my kids are now 10&12 & I am constantly told how well mannered they are by extended family AND strangers. Put in the work now, be rewarded later. Teaching kids to follow rules is part of the job, not being their buddy or best friend.

      • Out of respectful curiosity, why is your assumption that the kids were wrong or not listening? Is it really 100% out of the realm of possibility that another adult was actually at fault?

        This comment – “If you child or children can not follow simple directives after being warned with consequence, then you need to stay home and practice that lesson.” – doesn’t make sense because no child listens 100% of the time regardless of location. It’s not like I am running boot camp and going to bark orders at them in my living room until they comply every time, as that’s not the goal and children aren’t robots.

        But either way, isn’t it possible that another adult was actually in the wrong? My children get complimented at times, too – so with all due respect, I have had some success in parenting thus far and don’t appreciate the sentiment that somehow parenting or the kids are at fault here.

      • The fact that you would assume that I or my mom friends are not “putting in the hours” with our children is insulting. I’m a stay at home mom and it’s a 24/7 job. Helicopter parenting teaches your children nothing. I teach my children to follow the rules and be respectful. It was definitely a teaching opportunity that day: how even adults can be disrespectful and bully. Do not assume you know how to parent someone else’s children better than them – you don’t know the whole story, and FYI we weren’t sitting around talking about the “diaper sale.” You seem really ready to cast that first stone. I’m so glad your such a perfect parent. Good for you. In the meantime, while you sit up on your soap box, I am parenting my kids (6, 4, 2) who MUST be out of our house because of toxic mold remediation and am trying to watch all three in an environment where the splash pad attendant is quite literally bullying my son. Go ahead and point that finger, four more are pointing right back at you when you do it.

      • Just letting you know my parents were the same way. I was a perfect angel until I was a senior and started cracking under the expectation to be perfect. By the time I got to college and I was supporting myself, I had no inner compass. All I had been told was, you behave this way because I said so. It was all or nothing, and since I felt I couldn’t be perfect, I went the other way. A therapist later told me that overbearing parents either end up with kids like me, who turn to drugs and alcohol and sex, or rigid overachievers – but not adults who can make decisions for themselves. So good luck with that.

    • Although I had no problems with the attendant, I agree that the woman should not have said what she did and taken the tone that she did with your group. She should learn how to politely tell parents what they can do if their children do not follow the rules. But we have to agree to disagree on whether you have an issue with the rules and whether that matters or not. If your children are no strangers to spankings and time outs as you say, then I can’t imagine why you would correct them 15+ times and still let them continue their behavior–unless you didn’t really believe that the rule had to be enforced. Kids can tell a lot from your tone of voice and they know when you mean business and when you don’t. From your blog, I understand that you don’t believe “no running” should be a rule (and while it’s fun to run, would you want your child to be smacked by a 5 or 6 year old running full force, knocking your child’s head into one of the spray poles and getting a concussion or brain injury, or slipping and breaking a bone? At home it may be fine, but at public places with many children involved, who knows what sort of liability the park has for that situation?) And what sort of tone did you meet the attendant with when she wanted your children to listen and follow the rules (that they couldn’t read off a sign, no, but you could)? Was it polite or was it “this is a ridiculous rule” tone?
      Bottom line, if you want people to focus on the demeaning tone of this woman, leave out the part where you want your children to run in a splash park that asks for no running. Making the point that children run when they’re not supposed to really weakens your case against the attendant.

      • We will have to agree to disagree. My kids had stopped running and she was still berating us. I have never been spoken to or verbally attacked by another adult in public in the way that happened Monday. Most humans are likely to become a little defensive when told directly in a nasty tone that they are bad mothers. That is about the lowest blow and worst insult to be given, especially from a stranger. Bad moms do not take 3 kids 4 and under 20 minutes away from their house for a play date in the heat; bad mothers don’t make sure everyone has sunscreen and swim diapers and snacks; bad mothers don’t maintain a calm tone of voice when being ridiculed. I’m not a bad mother and neither are you … But let’s all have some grace and assume we’re doing our best. I never told her “no running” was a ridiculous rule, but let’s also be a tad realistic that kids are bound to run outside and them doing so a handful of times doesn’t make me an unfit mother.

  2. I just read this post, and all the comments shared so far. I can only conclude this:

    Could the Lafreniere Splash Pad be run by Westboro Baptist Church?

  3. While I agree that perhaps this woman’s tone was out of line, she is charged with enforcing the rules of the splash pad. I agree that diapers should not be changed in a water attraction, and a no running rule seems logical. I think it is unfair to state that you are open to parenting advice, but “not from a splash pad attendant.” This woman seems harsh, but her job is to enforce the rules. If you disagree with her approach, I would contact park administration. I don’t think belittling her status as a splash pad attendant is fair or productive. I’m not agreeing with her actions as you’ve described, but I’m sure if she were given the opportunity to share her perception of the events that transpired, it would be illuminating. I’m not sure why this rant is a blog post on NOMB. You should have spent the time writing to the park.

    • By writing this, the park now is 100% aware of our experience (as well as that of dozens of other moms) and has already contacted us. So, in writing the post in essence we were writing to the park – and I will never regret finding another local mom whose son in a wheelchair was denied access as a result. If that is all that comes of this, then to us it will have been worth it.

      As for the attendant, she went way beyond enforcing rules. I hope you can trust our professional (and parenting) judgment that this was way more egregious than a simple enforcement of guidelines / rules. I personally visit LCM, the zoo, the aquarium, pools, etc every week in the city and have never had an issue with anything close to this. I welcome attendants or employees correcting my kids if it’s done in a nice way and coming from the right place. This was neither. She was in our face, being rude, saying very nasty things – it was very different than anything I experience day to day as mom in New Orleans. If it had not been so extreme I never would have spent the time writing any of this. We hope you can trust us on that, that it was so far extreme that it A) warranted sharing and B) actually was productive because the park is now well aware.

  4. I agree that her behavior as you and others have described is out of line. I’ve also heard many parents complain about how their kids are unfairly treated when their kids are completely out of line. I’m not saying anyone is right here, but I just think it is unfair to publicly shame someone and deride their position as a splash pad attendant without giving them a reasonable opportunity to share their side of the story. I’ve been to many splash pads and there are often misbehaving kids who make it unpleasant for all of the other kids who are there playing. I’m sure your kids are not counted among that number, but I still don’t see how a personal attack on a splash pad attendant in this blog is more productive than a phone call or letter to the park administration. And to the woman whose child was excluded because he was in a wheelchair, that is absolutely discriminatory, and I would contact park administration so the attendant can be properly educated.

    • The thing is, though, as I told the park manager by phone and email this morning (which I am certain a letter NEVER would have gotten as quick of a reply as a blog that reaches thousands of people) … this isn’t about my kids. It is about how I was spoken to as a grown adult. As a grown adult, I was offended and disrespected by another adult. I am not belittling her role, and as I stated in the post, I 100% welcome someone in that role to intervene if needed. I am upset at the way she spoke to us (and our children) and the way she chose to create a massive scene for no reason.

      As an aside, I also personally think that it’s a shame that this country in general has become a place where everywhere we go as mothers we are micromanaged. Our kids can’t walk home from school alone, they can’t play in the yard alone, they can’t sit in a running car – safety and danger issues aside, I tend to believe that as a society we have become so concerned with how parents are parenting that we are literally stealing joy and fun from children. For the entire hour we were there, our group was micro-managed and judged. My kids are 4, 2 and 1 … they aren’t capable of much more than running, which we did correct multiple times. But do I need to be told I am essentially unfit as a mother because my 2 year old keeps running through puddles? It’s just so darn extreme.

  5. I have never taken my kids to that splash pad because of all the bad things I heard about it. But we have gone to that playground and when I see the splash pad there are kids running ALL THE TIME!!! I don’t see how anything these mom’s did was irresponsible, neglectful, or negative in anyway. I applaud that they were patient for so long. If that had been me, I would have stood up and told that women what she could do with her nasty mouth and mean opinions and had she disciplined my child for me, there would have been a manager there that moment. Children are children. As a mom with older kids and a toddler, I understand the struggle with needing to change a diaper and having older kids that need supervising. I have no judgement over the decision she made on where to change her daughter even if I would not do the same myself. The attendant could have calmly asked the mom to change her daughter in the bathroom due to health and cleanliness reasons and even offered to keep an eye on her other children while she went (which is what I would have done had it been me). As far as this article, sometimes things like this must be made public in order for change to happen. So to you mom’s who went through this, you are great moms and doing a great job.

  6. these types of bullies are very real. My youngest is ONE YEAR OLD and I had four kids in 4 years. I am also disabled. You read that right. I have cerebral palsy and I have four young children. maybe you can’t imagine what has been said to me because it is so VILE. but I will tell you these people exist everywhere, including some of the most well-respected institutions in the city. This really does happen.

  7. I applaud you moms for handling yourselves the way you did. If your kids are happy, well taken cared of and loved you have no right to be treat like a bad mom. I have to hyper girls and for that reason I usually have to have the energy myself to take them places. I’m a stay at home mom too and everyday it’s a battle to teach a 4 year old and 1 year old manners but even when I think they are being crazy I get compliments on their behavior. We do work hard to teach them the rules but like you said they have to have real life experience to practice these manners we teach them. Kids are kids they need to be able to be kids! Heck it’s so hot I want to run and jump in those splash pads too, it’s fun and I don’t want my kids running over other kids and pushing them out of the way and hurting them but you know what your kid can fall and have a serious head energy from tripping walking right next to you. As for the diaper changing its not like she was sitting with her kid in the water changing them, to say it gross makes you a bully too. We as moms should support each other and build each other up cause we’re the only ones who understand what it is like to do this.

  8. Running where there is water and slick surfaces is a safety issue – sort of a no brainer. If your running kid knocks down another kid and cracks his head open, what exactly do you think is going to happen? Those parents are going to sue YOU and the water park for allowing it to happen. You should’ve made your kids stop running the first time you were told about the behavior. YOU are responsible for reading The Rule Signs. YOU are responsible for enforcing that your children follow those rules – not only for your OWN kids’ safety, but that of other people (who ARE minding the rules) trying to enjoy their visit to the splash pad as well.
    Probably the attendant overreacted by the end, but once you were on their radar and appeared to not care about making your children follow the rules, you were done for. I’m not saying that it was fair, but you need to own your part in not making sure your kids followed the rules.

    • It’s a little offensive to say that we “appeared to not care about making your children follow the rules” when we have addressed the fact that we corrected our children multiple times to get them to stop. That wasn’t the point of the post, and for what it is worth, the soft surface at this splash pad is not slick nor could a kid likely crack their head open on it. The real point was the condescending and demeaning tone that the attendant took with us – a group of caring mothers out for a fairly innocent playdate. We would agree that we are responsible for enforcing the rules, which we did. Again, that wasn’t the point here … we don’t think we (or our kids) are above the rules. But we do think that there’s a way to speak to adults and handle minor infractions … and clearly as is stated throughout the comments, the woman at the splash pad that day was off base in her choices, tone and words.

  9. Omg! Well I am not a mom so I have little to offer to that side of the conversation. Besides I think everything that could’ve possibly been said, has been said. But I am dying to know what happened! Especially in regard to the child in the wheelchair. I cannot believe that happened! And the attendant actually said “it’s not fair to the other kids”. wtf.

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