There is nothing more frustrating than going to a park with your family on a beautiful spring day to find that you will later leave the playground feeling exhausted, beat down and simply annoyed by other parents and their children due to the lack of playground etiquette.
Listen, I am not perfect by any means especially in the parenting realm. My vice is being too connected to my phone and social media. Sometimes I need to put down the phone and simply disconnect. I remind myself countless times that I do not need to video or document every waking moment in my child’s life. It’s hard to do but I work hard to put down all distractions when I take my family to any playground. Sure, I snap a few photos here and there, but that is where I stop.
It’s not unusual to see a parent or two sitting on the bench while their kids run wild. It’s also not unusual to see parents chatting it up with other adults unaware that their child is about to fall off the monkey bars. I can handle that.
What I can’t handle is a parent that decides to stay inside her parked car to play on her phone instead of playing with her three children at the park nearby. My recent experience at the playground makes me want to write a playground etiquette guide that all parents and caregivers are required to read, but not at the park.
A story about a playground etiquette fail
As I walked up to the park with my energetic two-year-old daughter, a group of kids ran towards us like a herd of horses so excited to see us. I turn around looking for their parents and I see their mom smiling and waving towards me. She approves, but will she get out of her car to play with us all? God knows I can barely handle my own child, but now I am the adult supervisor of the park. My husband is also with me, but we brought our dog so they are busy throwing frisbees nearby.
The youngest child was so excited to play with someone other than his siblings. “Can she play?,” he asked.
“Of course!” I replied.
Reese played for a bit before all she wanted to do was go watch her daddy throw the frisbee with our dog. Not a big deal until all the kids followed us and again the mom did not lift a finger to get out of her car. I felt weird with my dog playing with other children unsupervised. I would think she would have felt the same, but again all I could see was the side of her head looking down at her phone while her children went along with strangers.
What if we were psychos? What if our dog was a crazy wild beast? What if you looked down and looked back up and we were ALL gone? That is the unfortunate reality of our society.
At this point, my daughter wanted to fly her new kite. I knew this was going to start a fight among 4 kids. Who doesn’t want to fly a kite? The oldest kid said they had never flown one.
Not surprised one bit given the lack of parental involvement I was witnessing.
The kite was going haywire, my dog was barking, kids were running and mass hysteria broke out.
“Can it be my turn now?”
“Can I pet your dog?”
“One more time!”
From a distance, I heard their mom yelling from the car. “Kids,” she yelled. “We need to go!”
“Awe!” they replied in unison and walked back to her car reluctantly.
I felt bad for them. They were having fun and we could have continued to have fun if she had got out and helped us maintain order. But that did not happen.
Off they went, leaving behind a broken kite, excited dog, and two mentally drained adults.
I didn’t know how to feel in that moment. I felt many emotions:
Sadness because these kids obviously wanted the attention of an adult. Instead the mom left the oldest in charge who clung to my side the moment I stepped foot on the playground. She needed attention. I also felt relieved that they left and now I could have some one-on-one time with my daughter without distraction.
I was angry that the mom couldn’t step out of her car to join us, to be a part of this beautiful Spring day with her children that so desperately wanted to play. Heck, maybe we would have gotten along or related to one another in some way, but I will never know.
I pray that maybe the mom was having an ‘off’ day and just needed a moment to collect herself. We all need a break from parenting to keep sane, but the playground is not that place.
With that being said, I think the most annoying parent at the playground is the parent that is there physically but isn’t present in the moment.
I can handle the over bearing parent that won’t give his or her children distance, but I will not understand the parent that leaves it to other people – complete strangers – to watch and play with their children when they are capable of doing so themselves.
Parents of the park, I beg of you to get off your ass and phones to be present with your children. Don’t leave this responsibility to others.
This is time that you can never get back.
Our children need us now. As they grow older they will not want to play with us.
Your phone will be there for you when you are old and wrinkly at the retirement home. You will wish you could go back to being that exhausted parent at the playground trying to keep up with your rowdy kids.
What do you think about playground etiquette? Can you describe a moment that you lacked parental involvement in public? What rules would you include in a playground etiquette guide?