Monday, June 10, 2013

Park Life!

We are fortunate enough to live directly between two very cool kiddie play parks. As lucky as we are to have them both, it is hard not to choose favorites (spoken like a true clueless mother of one). 

"Swing" park, as we call it, has the swings. I know, VERY creative naming skills. You're lucky my daughter isn't called "Puffy girl" based on our first encounter. But Swing park is the inferior park. Let me tell you why:

*It is crowded as hell, if hell had dozens of screaming children and disenfranchised nannies running around, which I am pretty sure it does.
*When the weather is very warm, there is a terrible mosquito infestation that comes out around 4-6pm... you know, that dead time when you desperately need something to do with the kid before dinner... yeah, you can’t go there then. 
*The jungle gym/climbing unit has several openings on every single side that an unskilled climber (or a two year old) can very easily fall off of, and an unskilled caregiver (or me) feels powerless to defend against. I can't be everywhere at once!
Please note the six unique drop-off points above
 *There is a "pit" set two oddly sized steps down from the rest of the park.
Please note the innocent looking Razor looming in the background
*It is a graveyard for any donated toys from the neighborhood, which would actually be a really nice thing, if it wasn't for the pit (see above), which the kids can then careen down into on the second-hand "Razors of death," as I fondly call them.

"Slide" park is our go-to. Guess what identifying feature that park has? Yup... a sandbox. If you must know, both parks actually have slides... and I probably should have my naming rights confiscated. Slide park is usually empty during the day and rarely gets super busy. This is a good thing for a two year old, who has had the ability to grow her playground chops at her own pace with relatively little interruption. Unfortunately, we have not exactly had the most realistic introduction to playground socialization. My sweet little lady is not used to having to be aggressive, and I am at a complete loss as to how I should behave in a playground.

Our experiences at Swing park the other day really highlighted A-why it sucks and B-why park rules shouldn't just be some vague concept we all think we know. We need to make sure we all actually know them, and respect them, and obey them. For the sake of my sanity as well as my desire to let the kid run loose and burn off a bit of energy. 

My daughter was climbing on the "free-fall" apparatus (see above: jungle gym that has drop-off points on all sides and levels), which is a particularly difficult thing for a two-year old to do in the after-school hours when the park is overrun with grade schoolers. My daughter climbs, not with the brazen determination of a seven year old, but with the tentative courage of a two year old. That courage is enough to get her to the top and go down the big slide on a normal day. As that day was a particularly gorgeous day, warmest we've had all year, the kids were out in droves, and her courage was coming up a bit short.

She's two, so we are currently teaching her about sharing and turns, and thank goodness, she seems to get it.  On this crowded day, however, the kids were all pushing past her as she nervously waited her turn at the top of the slide. Thanks kids! Way to give her some practical experience that contradicts every single lesson we have been trying to teach her.

Me: Take your time and everyone gets a turn.
Her: Really mom? Cause when I take my time, everyone just kind of pushes past me to go down the slide in front of me. And the stream of kids is endless... when is it my turn exactly? 

Me: Go down the slide and get clear so someone else can go down.
Her: Ok mom, but it sure does seem like these kids are going down, stopping halfway, then climbing back up and screaming like wild f#$%ing animals in my face. But I'm sure in theory your plan makes sense too.

Me: Be gentle and we don't hit.
Her: Sure mom, we don't hit. But I'm pretty sure some super snotty-faced under-two just smacked my head for doing nothing but saying hi to him. WTF Snots???

Pick up the story four minutes later when my daughter gave up completely on the loud, overcrowded slide and decided she wanted to go back to the swings. The mystery mother of Snots McGee (the kid that just hit her) resurfaced just in time to grab him, dart past us walking into the swings section and grab the last available swing. But only after she stopped at the entry to lecture a bigger kid on needing to close the gate behind him. Nice teaching moment, but where were you when your kid just smacked my kid? Maybe take a sec to be a parent to your own kid, and let the other caregivers tend to their wards, hmmm? 

Now, when we left the swings earlier, we had left relatively quickly so that someone else could have a turn. Consider this one of my great lessons in sharing. So when we returned and began waiting, I reinforced the lesson by pointing out that we would now wait for our turn. All good, except the chatting nannies and distracted parents apparently all decided that now would be a great time to make me look like a big fat liar to my kid. 

Me: We gave up our spot on the swing to give someone else a turn and now someone will give up their spot to give us a turn.
Her: So, let me get this straight: I have to get off the swings quickly before my swinging needs have been satiated so that someone else can have a turn, yet when I am waiting for well over five minutes (an eternity in park time), no one is going to get off for me? I am the only one waiting, by the way, so I only need one nice person to move. Oh yeah, that seems like another great lesson you fool.

So, do you want to know how we eventually got a spot on the swing? Well, a nanny who was pushing two kids while talking to another nanny pushing a third kid abandoned her first kid. Enter Mother-Of-The-Year: Mamma Snots McGee, who steps in and starts pushing abandoned kid #1, who proceeds to projectile vomit all over himself and the swing. His nanny doesn't realize this until someone calls out to her and she grabs him out of the swing, which is now covered in spit-up. Of course, my kid doesn't understand that, does she? She sees a free swing and wonders why the hell I'm not moving in on that. It's partially because I didn't even have a tissue of my own to clean it up with, and partially because MOTY McGee announced that she would clean it up. How noble! Now she has left Snots (again!) dangling (cause you're only swinging when someone is pushing you... otherwise you're just kind of blowing in the breeze), to go earn that MOTY title and fetch a wipe to help clean the swing. 

Thankfully, while all this was going on, Nanny #2 removed Nanny #1's kid #2 from his swing and I was able to get my kid swinging. Which was going great until kid #1, baby Hurl-ey as we'll call him, shows back up in the swings section, tottering straight into the path of my daughter's swinging legs. I tried three times, on her backswings, to corral him and send him around behind me. But he was persistent, like a mini drunk frat boy, and park etiquette aside, I was forced to allow Hurl-ey, myself and my kid to all collide as I was basically pushing/pulling him to the side and out of the way. I had always thought of touching other people's kids in the park as a big no-no, but I had no choice, and I was ready to throw down if someone wanted to have a go at me on this one.

So, the mom behind me goes to put her kid in the spit-up swing and I tried telling her not to, that it had sick on it and someone (where'd you go, MOTY? Your kid is still dangling there!) would be back to clean it. This mother also had a kid who desperately wanted her turn, but she happened to have a tissue in her pocket which she used to clean the swing off. As she's lifting her kid into the swing, MOTY shows back up, yelling not to put her kid in and gives me a look of questionable judgment (read: death glare) for allowing this woman to let her kid swing in someone else's sick. As opposed to what really happened; understanding her pain of needing to get her kid on the swing and being ok cleaning up the mess herself. 

So, the McGee family (not their real name, I'm guessing) has ruined for me what was actually the crappier park anyway. Of course my daughter couldn't care less. She just wants to swing sometimes. I have made the executive decision that her swinging will have to be confined to off-peak hours because I personally cannot handle the peak swinging experience. I am destined to be that woman who gets in trouble for "teaching park rules to" (reprimanding) someone else's kid. But someone F-ing has to! Of course if we all promised to simply look after our own kids, I wouldn’t need to. And yet...

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