Everything I learned about parenting I learned on the playground.
Ok, I shouldn’t say everything, it’s not like I first learned to change a diaper on a teeter-totter but the majority of my discipline and sharing rules have come as a result of an interaction on a playground. I am not a natural born discipliner. I have always been amazed when people have a wonderfully, well thought out reprimand that was not only insightful but heartfelt, à la Danny Tanner-Full House style.
The majority of my disciplinary vocab starts and ends with “No!” or “Stop!” Becoming a mother inevitably pushes you into an authority figure but there are no books as to what the rules actually are.
If I did receive a child rearing book before I left the hospital, it’s probably on my junk counter along with the unopened Paleo cookbooks, never to be used coupons, and my other good intentions.
Before I was a parent I had no idea that climbing up a slide was grounds for playground banishment. It wasn’t until I overheard another parent explaining “Slides are meant to go down, not up!” did I realize that I needed to grab my little mountaineer trekking up the spiral slide and give him a loving but curt “Honey, we only go dooowwnn slides!”. “Mulch stays on the ground not on the slide-we like to keep the playground nice”, check! “Two minutes on the swing and then we let our new friend have a turn”, got it! “No running in front of swings because we don’t want to get hurt or hurt others”, seems like a duh now!
I love to watch how other parents handle confrontation and watch these perfectly constructed arguments flow effortlessly from their mouths. “We use our words, not our hands!” has a much more pleasant ring to it than “No pushing!” These same parents are also readily equipped with this perfectly devised sharing chart ingrained in their mind on every possible activity faced on a playground. “3 more bounces on the horse and then we give this other little boy a chance”, ” One more minute and you need to let Emmy stand on the big rock”, “Jaxxon you can be Spider-Man for two more minutes but then you need to switch and you be Iron Man for a while”, “Asher you have 5 pine cones, give him two please sweetie.”
Sharing is caring but sometimes you must resist the urge to shout “Are we really fighting over stupid pine cones?”
Most of my parenting is learned on the spot but there are still so many rules I’m uncertain about. Do we really expect children to use their indoor voices (i.e. not scream) outside? How much of a trot is too much of a run at a pool? Why put noisy toys in the library when we expect kids to be as quiet as a mouse? And how the heck are you supposed to know if your kid is allowed to share the toys floating aimlessly in the kiddie pool from the little-uninterested owner in the pink bathing suit who is more concerned with chewing on her noodle than the forgotten Paw Patrol boat my son desperately wants to play with?
I am the first to admit that when it comes to this parenting thing I have no idea what the heck I’m doing but I’m willing to learn.
So in this world of mommy shamming and parenting snobs, please be aware some of us were not equipped with a built-in manual of parenting rules. We may even be secretly listening to you as you teach your little one these unwritten rules of the playground because we are learning as well. However, we are absolutely doing the best we can. So if my son happens to play with the telescope for too long or stays on the swing for three minutes and not his designated two, please know that I am not a bad mom, just a mother trying to learn the rules as she goes.