Thursday, October 2, 2008

If you met me on the playground, you might hate me

I'm not a helicopter parent. I refuse to hover. When I am at the park or playground with my kids, that is my chance to sit and chill for a while, and it is their chance to run and play and be a little wild for a while.

I believe in letting the kids play. Without a whole lot of intervention from me. I will push them in the swing, and watch them do the monkey bars, and cheer when they do something they consider cool. But for the most part I back off.

Which generally earns me a lot of dirty looks and many somewhat veiled annoyed remarks in my direction from other parents. When we are at the park, Jack and Aidan like to play. They are 3. And they like to run. And try to 'get' each other. Sometimes they tackle each other. Sometimes they walk beyond the carefully laid mulch to the hills and trees next to the playground equipment. Sometimes they walk over to the water fountain and spray themselves until they are soaked. Sometimes they throw rocks (I stop them if people are nearby, but let it go if they are throwing in the ditch). All of this is ok with me. If they come home a little wet, I don't really care. If they accidentally run too fast down the hill and fall down, well, they've been bumped and scratched before. I don't jump up every time there is danger of them falling, bumping, or possibly getting hurt. I sit back and watch, and comfort when the need arises.

And, since I am confessing here, I don't care when they commit the (apparently) unpardonable sin of climbing *up* the slide. I'm not really sure why this is such a monstrous thing to do. I remember loving to climb up slides as a child. It works their muscles, gives them a challenge, and they enjoy it. But when other parents/kids are around, you are sure to hear shout of NO! And threats of time out when little Johnny even turns the direction of going *up* and not just down. And I get lots of dirty looks when mine do it and I just sit there. The looks get downright scary when I shout 'good climbing'!

When other kids are around, we are the bad influence. The other parents try to keep their children inside the mulch spot, away from the fountain, and never, ever climb *up* the slide. If there is a little scuffle, I tend to sit back and observe. I will intervene if I feel it necesary, but I never find it necessary before the other parents are already running at full speed, and yelling, and generally making a much bigger deal about whatever is going on.

My kids have been pushed, bitten, hit, etc. I try not to make a big deal of it. But I think I am the only one. Most of the parents I see would have an adult-sized tantrum if/when any of those things happen to their precious child.

Needless to say, I am not the popular mom at the park. I think the other moms really hate me. The one at the park today did for sure. She was talking to her playdate friend, and when I first sat down, I thought they were speaking at pretty normal levels, but her friend must have had selective hearing loss, because whenever she had something to say about THOSE BOYS (mine), her voice raised considerably. I appreciated it, because I was reading my book, and her play-by-play of their horrific behavior (running! climbing! shouting! horror!) allowed me to keep reading and not have to watch them as closely as I usually might. :)

If I felt my kids needed protecting, and they have in the past, I would do a little more hovering. If a kid is bugging them, I have no problem telling the kid (nicely, of course) to back off. And I have no problem with other people telling my kids to back off. But I know they can handle themselves, and they won't die if someone pushes them down. So I let them deal with it. But this attitude really makes it hard for me to meet friends on the playground.


Kydon said...

I've gotten the dirty looks too... the few times I've had the chance to take them out alone.

All I can say is that our kids are little terrors... I mean future "world leaders"!

Adam and Lisa said...

I used to get on my students for climbing up the slide. But it wasn't so much that they were climbing it, it was that others were trying to go down it. With about 90 + kids on the playground, there can only be one direction on the slide. But I say with less kids - let 'em climb. And heaven forbid little Johnny get a bruise. You might get reported to DFAX!

Lisa said...

I'm pretty lax at the playground too. I don't care if my kids climb up the slide. Other people have gotten after them for playing in the water (I can understand it's a conservation issue, but it's so much fun!) I was shocked a few weeks ago when a mom of a little girl the exact same age as Sariah told her dd she couldn't climb up a set of VERY LOW monkey bars because she was "too little". Sariah's been climbing it by herself for weeks! If she gets stuck at the top, I go help her, but that's about it. Sariah is barely two, and she can climb up the climbing wall and up this structure that looks like a mountain and has "stones" to climb. (OK, the climbing wall freaked me out a bit...I had no clue she was doing it until she was all the way at the top--but she did it!)

I have been around moms who could stand to supervise a bit more. Last week there was a toddler not more than about 18 months going way too far outside of her mom's range. I had to go rescue the child before she walked clear out of the park. Her mom had no clue; she was busy gabbing with friends. It was like this the entire 45 minutes we were there.

Elaine said...

Dang girl, where do you live? GEORGIA??! ;) All of the behavior you just listed as's kid-dome. My kids do all of the above, along with every other child at the parks that I frequent and we don't have any gossipy moms...or maybe we do and I'm blind to it. Come here to Colorado! It sounds like things are bit too uptight there.

Kelly said...

You sound EXACTLY like me, like 100%. Those helicopter parents drive me insane. I usually leave early if they are especially helicoptery. And the whole slide thing. What the heck is that about? Why do parents get their panties in a wad so quickly if the kid climbs up the slide. I mean, is there some law that says you can only go down a slide? Don't even get me started on that.

And why do moms get so stressed out if their kids run off away from them in a big open field that is completely fenced in? There is one mom in our ward that starts yelling at her kid if he gets more than 50 feet away from her. He is 7 years old. And guess what? SHOCKER>>> the kid doesn't listen to her, or anyone else for that matter.

Jen said...

If you lived near me I would be your playground partner because I'm pretty much the same way with my kids. (at least I was when they were younger) and now I'm still like that with Liam. I would be your friend and we could "ignore" our kids' behavior together and give dirty looks back to all the helicopter moms. :)

erika said...

AMEN sister! I think I am related to some of those helicopter parents! I just want to tell them to chill....the world isn't going to end.

The Clanton Gang said...

:) I don't go to the park because I hate running after my kids. I should just be as laid back as you and let them play!!

Astarte said...

I am SO WITH YOU!!!! The only time I really watch them is if there are other, much smaller children around and Patrick has found another boy to roughhouse with, because while he's usually very, very good at being careful around little children, the chance of Baby Injury goes up exponentially with every additional boy.

I agree that children should do whatever they want at a park, as long as they aren't hurting themselves. I have been on playdates where I'm sure I horrified some of the other parents by encouraging my kids to do things where they might get hurt, but how else are they going to learn to be brave and try new things? I don't want to teach them that risks and excitement = bad dirt and fear. I want them to be free!

Your kids can play with my kids anytime, sister.