Last week, I fell down at the playground while carrying my son Ben. It was one of those moments that happened in slow motion. A guttural “Noooooo!” erupted from my mouth while “O Fortuna” played dramatically in my mind like I was in the trailer of a mommy horror movie. I lost my footing and had to contort my body midair to avoid falling on Ben. I maintained my hold on him until I hit the ground, and he rolled out of my arms. He was wailing, but uninjured. I was embarrassed by my clumsiness and in pain from hitting the ground so hard.
After sitting on the ground for a few moments to regain my composure, I was overcome with another feeling: ANGER. I was angry at the mom standing across the playground who did not come to my aid – who did not even ask if Ben and I were okay. There was no way she could have missed that fall and all of the screams and tears that accompanied it. And yet, she did nothing. I spent the next thirty minutes on the playground being pleasant around Inconsiderate Playground Mom. On the inside though, I was just wishing I could cut a b**ch. (Yikes! End inappropriate moment of mom rage.)
A week later, I am still appalled by her lack of compassion. And if my voodoo doll of Inconsiderate Playground Mom worked, then a week later she’s appalled by her sudden onset of uncontrollable public flatulence. (Okay, now I’ll REALLY end my over-reaction.)
After a second incident a couple of days ago with another rude playground mom, I knew that I needed to vent. I considered writing a guide on playground etiquette, but I have no authority to tell others what they should and shouldn’t do. (Let’s be real, the pile of unaddressed thank you notes from various events sitting in my nightstand drawer do not make me the foremost expert in etiquette.) Instead, I will share with you my Playground Mom Wish List. I’m not preaching … just wishin’ and hopin’.
I wish that all Playground Moms would watch their children.
This one sounds like a no-brainer, right? Not exactly. I am constantly surprised by how many parents just let their children run around Lord of Flies style. We don’t all need to be helicopter moms on the playground (check Facebook, talk to your friends, have some “me” time while your child is distracted), but please at least be AWARE of what your children are doing.
If your kid is sitting on the bottom of the slide throwing wood chips or rocks at another kid, please reprimand them. If your kid is terrorizing another kid on the swings, please make them stop. I know that kids are going to be kids, and it’s hard to prevent them from doing these things, but we can at least intervene when they do. Please don’t put another mom in the awkward position of having to police your child in order to defend her own.
I wish that all Playground Moms would be friendly.
Listen, Playground Moms who can barely crack a smile when my son runs up to you and your children: often I don’t feel like talking to you either. While it is sometimes nice to have a conversation on the playground, most of the time I just want to watch my kid play. Small talk can be a chore to me too, but if we are standing 5 feet from each other for an hour while our kids play together please muster up the energy to exchange pleasantries.
I don’t mean that I want you to review the quadratic equation while your kid is on the monkey bars. I just wish that everyone would spend some time on the playground teaching your children how to treat others with respect. I see the playground as a place where I can teach my son to be the kind of man I want him to be. It is a place where he can learn that he doesn’t always need to be first. It is a place where he can learn that it’s not right to pick on children because they are smaller than him or because they look different than him. And, it is a place where he can learn to help others up when they fall.
The mom last week didn’t have to rush over to Ben and me like a paramedic when we fell, especially if she needed to stay by her child’s side, but she could have called out asking us if we were okay. Isn’t compassion a lesson that we all want our children to learn?
For moms like me with young toddlers, the playground is often one of our only daily interactions with other kids. It would be nice for it to be a positive experience.