This weekend was the first weekend in what seems like 10 months that it’s been nice and sunny here. It came just in time, as we have all been suffering from MAJOR cabin fever, so Mr. Sunshine was a very welcome guest for us.
So we did what apparently every other family in the Southeast did, and headed out to our favorite park. It’s right down the street from our house and is large and beautiful. I expected it to be crowded, and I was not wrong. In the fall, before winter cursed us with months of gray skies and muddy yards, we went two to three times a week, and were often the only family there. It was great because I didn’t have to hover over Declan like a hawk when he climbed and jumped and ran around like a maniac. I liked that our visits were virtually stress-free, with no worry about him running down another kid or vice-versa, and no awkward confrontations with parents.
It’s hard to imagine that a casual visit to the park or a play area could lead to drama, but boy, it can. I’ve been lucky to avoid any thus far, but I have been on the receiving end of some knowing glances about other parents, as if to say “I don’t know you, but I can see you’d never let YOUR kid do THAT.” I’m also lucky in that so far, my kid isn’t the playground bully, nor is he the playground target. He just runs around laughing and screaming, and stays out of everyone else’s way.
Today wasn’t nearly as relaxing.
Part of the issue was the sheer volume of people at the park. I had to create a parking space, for Pete’s sake! And another issue was the amount of older kids. During the week, obviously the park is toddler-friendly because big kids are at school. So I’m not accustomed to their bravado, their athleticism, and their language! I actually heard a little girl say to her friend “Girl, I’ve been tryin to text your butt all day!” They were, oh, 7.
And big kids are FEARLESS. These big boys were on top of the jungle gyms and jumping off, which made me feel like I was dodging cannonballs on a battlefield. My nerves were getting rankled. But I kept my cool. They weren’t being bad, they were just being boys, but I was feeling the urge to hover growing stronger.
But nothing brought out the Mama Bear more than the stupid PARENTS. UGH.
First of all, I know you can’t judge a parent (nor should you, but come on..) just based on a one-time experience. I’d hate to see what someone thought of me on the day recently when it was FREEZING outside, but Declan refused to wear his coat out of the store. They probably thought “that IDIOT woman, does she not know how COLD it is out here???” But what they didn’t know was the absolute MELTDOWN I had just experienced in the store, and that I was not going to put either of us through it again. And I knew five minutes in the cold was worth the peace!
But somethings really do speak volumes. For example, the parents smoking not just in front of their kids, which is bad enough, but ON the playground. The playground with kids falling out of the sky and toddlers darting left and right. The fact that no one got burned is a miracle. And seriously, you can’t step just OUTSIDE the play area, so you aren’t exhaling your filth all over us? THANKS.
Then there was the Coca-Cola Crew. The ones whose kids are walking around with Route 44 sodas from Sonic or the extra large sweet tea from McDonald’s. I know, I know, this could be the one day out of the year that they are allowed a coke … everything is fine in moderation … blah blah. If you saw these people, you’d know that their four food groups are Sugar, Corn Syrup, Cheetos and Pixie Sticks. But whatevs, at least their dietary habits weren’t affecting my kid, like the smokers.
Then, of course, there were the cussers. Common at any public place, there’s always some moron that has no problem complaining LOUDLY to her friends about “what an ASSHOLE” her husband is or “how sick of this SHIT” she is. Seriously, I cuss like a sailor in my home. Not in front of Declan (as much) since he can now mimic me, and I’m no prude. But COME ON. You can’t either tone it down a little or at least be quiet?
The cussers and smokers tend to overlap in one category, the “I hate my kid” group. You know the ones who scream and degrade their children every time they look at them wrong? Yea, they are so inspiring. As soon as we got there, a little girl had walked up to her daddy and was playing with his (extremely too long) necklace while he was arguing with her mom. What a family portrait. Anyway, as soon as we walked past, I heard him very sharply say “I TOLD you to get your hands OFF my chain.” Nice. She kinda wandered off with a dazed look, and I wanted to hug her.
Anyway, today was just the kind of day where I had to restrain myself from either putting Declan in a bubble or giving parenting lessons to every person I came in contact with. Or taking photos for this website (NSFW and pretty offensive, but relevant). But I realized that the best thing I could do, other than make a passive-aggressive comment near one fine lady about “moving away to get some FRESH AIR” as she breathed her Marlboro Red cloud on me, is to be the best parent I could be to Declan, in public or otherwise.