Over the years, I've noticed that there are two types of moms who populate playgrounds: those who actively play with their kids and those who prefer to sit and chat or play on their phones.
I am firmly in the latter category. And no, it's not because I'm a lazy parent or don't like my kids. But the moms who run around after their kids and are constantly inventing new games for their kids to play kinda make me want to scream. I take my kids to the playground so I DON'T have to play with them. That's what the playground equipment and the other kids are for. And if there aren't other kids there, that's great too; kids need to learn to entertain themselves! It's my break time. My time to sit outdoors in the sunshine and decompress. My time to not actively parent. My time to talk to another adult or read the news or, heck, read Facebook.
I get it, kids argue. And get into shoving matches. And throw stuff at each other. And leave other kids out. And, heaven forbid, climb up the slide instead of sliding down. But if you intervene every time one of those things happens, your kid will never learn to interact with their peers. Or learn conflict resolution. Or learn what the consequences are of going up the slide when a bunch of kids are sliding down it. They have to be out there, experiencing things for themselves. So I let them. I let my kids get into arguments with other kids. And you know what generally happens? Within about three minutes they're all playing nicely again. Kids, I've learned, don't hold onto their emotions. They don't hold grudges. It's all going to be ok.
So the next time you see "that parent" sitting on her phone at the playground, don't judge. Go over and introduce yourself. I bet she's craving some adult conversation!
I happen to fall more on the side of the first category. I love to play with my kids at the park for several reasons:
I’m a kid at heart. Even when I’m not playing, as I sit there watching kids whiz by laughing, having a blast, I have a sincere desire to get out there and play too! There is something very carefree and joyful about playing to me. Maybe I just want to live vicariously through my kids for a moment and pretend that my biggest problem in life is whether or not I can keep up with my 8 year old in a game of tag.
I’m super competitive. When one of my kids says “you can’t get me!” my gut reaction is: like heck I can’t! Dude, you’re five. I own you; literally. And I’m off.
The workout. If I’m going to be running around, I’m making it count. Who doesn't feel good about burning off tonight's future bowl of ice cream without having to go to the gym?!
The reset (my biggest reason) I have 3 boys ages 8, 5, and 3. I homeschool them which means they get a lot of time with me. However, that time consists of a lot of instruction and me nagging them to focus and get things done. Every so often, this results in me losing my patience and suddenly that cute little term all the trendy moms have on their T-shirts and coffee mugs that reads “Mama Bear” takes on a whole new meaning. Whether you homeschool or not, I’m pretty sure anyone who responds to “mommy” is familiar with that terrible feeling when you know your lack of patience has left you defeated. You might not even remember what they did to upset you! Your kid definitely doesn't remember what he did . He’s too distracted by the fact, that until now, he’s never noticed the strange resemblance between his mom and that crazy little red character from his favorite movie, Inside Out. You’re past the point of no return. Or are you?
For us, it’s like we need a reset button. Sometimes that reset button means us piling in the car -stat- and taking 30 minutes to get some energy out. It means putting our current situation on hold and me not just verbally reminding them that I love them no matter how upset I might get, but physically showing them by doing something with them that I know will allow them to feel loved. My kiddos are quality time kind of guys; whether it’s at the park or at home, spending quality time with them doing something THEY love to do, goes a long way. When we get back home, attitudes have shifted, my patience is renewed, and we can begin again.
That all being said, I do not ALWAYS play with my kids at the park. As with most good things, it’s necessary to have some balance. I let my boys know how long I’m going to play with them and then I let them play by themselves for a while as I join the face in phone moms. I completely agree with my counterpart that kids need time to interact with each other and entertain themselves on their own. Also, if we are meeting friends at the park, it goes without saying, I will be hanging with the adults while they play with their friends.
So if you happen to see me at the park hanging from the jungle gym, or running around like a crazy person, either a kid told me there was no way I could make it across the whole set of monkey bars (uh, yes I can!) or there’s a very good chance that about 30 minutes prior, I was royally screwing up the whole “awesome mom” gig I’m so desperately trying to pull off.
Those are OUR reasons for playing or not playing on the playground. There’s no right or wrong here. Every mom is different. Every kid is different. And all of our situations are unique, changing every day.
We want to hear what YOU do! Are you a player, or a player hater?!