The Problem With Playgrounds: Kids

Monday, May 17, 2010

While out on my morning run* Saturday, one of the new members of our bridge-runners crew—let’s call him D—asked me about motherhood. (*We ran well over five miles/9K. Hear that sound? Yes, it’s me, tooting my horn.) D is in the last two months of Newlywed-ness, or whatever you want to call the sometimes steep learning curve that is the first 12 months of marriage. He and his wife are getting deeper into the Baby Talk these days, and he wanted to know what I thought was the most challenging part of being a mom so far.

In between my huffs and puffs, I gave him two:

1) Time—as in it’s no longer your own …
Want to pass by your homegirl’s office and grab a drink? Did you clear it with The Baby/The Partner/The Nanny/The MIL first? Hell, just scratching out enough collective minutes to get maybe a quarter of the way through a New Yorker story (Books? What are those?) is a skilled operation.

2)Your marriage—as in, it takes work to support your relationship …
You find yourself viewing each other as teammates, with the big win being a happy, healthy child. It takes work and consideration to keep the non-parent part of your bond thriving.

But it was while at the park with QB and his Dada that a third note came to mind. I should have told D about another challenge I’ve recently discovered: OPK (Other People’s Kids).

The “No! Mine!” refrain. The shoving. The grabbing. The kicking. The pulling. The wild ways they—dare I call it—ride those scooters. And then, please leave room for the hacking. A day at the park/playground is never complete for QB unless some random member of OPK coughs in the vicinity or (lovely!) directly into my son’s face.

I know. This is what kids do. But that doesn’t mean OPK doesn’t ride your nerves from time to time … or every other day.

Part of the frustration is not really knowing the rules of this game. For example, what are you supposed to do when you child is playing with a toy—be it his own or a broke-down “community” one—and OPK marches over and snatches it?

Should you wait for the other parent to step in and corral their kid?
~If they don’t step in, do you then say something to them about their faulty ways?

Should you try to reason with your child (mid-meltdown) that there’s something in life called “taking turns”?
~Doesn’t this seem unfair to pull on a 15-month-old toddler all the time? When’s my turn, Mama? <–Dramatic line reading here.

Should you grab that plastic whatever with only one wheel right back from Junior Seize and keep it moving?
~Note: With this choice comes the fairly guaranteed spicy-word exchange with OPK’s mother. And from there, who knows what can happen or what kind of lesson you’re teaching your child.

I don’t know the right answer to these playground predicaments. To date, I’ve done a mix of all three reactions. Some days it works, others find me shooting red daggers from my eyes at OPK (yes, yes, I know they are only kids, but the daggers hurt no one. I promise you) and their parents.

So I’m asking you … Parents, how do you deal with OPK? I’m all ears—and about one quarter red dagger-y eyes.

  • 1
    april says:

    i think i have one of those kids! :o) you know, it’s just as hard having an aggressive, or what do they call it now….”spirited” child. i almost had a break down when my daughter was just over a year b/c she was so aggressive. yes, i had the barely-walking school yard bully, and here i was trying to make friends in my new nabe. i was always right behind her, apologizing, distracting, losing it… it was a rough winter. i really think these issues are much harder on us than the kids, no matter which side of the fence our kids fall. as long as there’s no violence, i say let the kids work it out, and hope that the aggressor’s parents are quick to demonstrate the “right way” (for the gazillionth time). but what do i know?

    • 1.1
      Ms. Mack says:

      You made me laugh, April. Thanks for the comment. Your way of handling playground politics sounds good to me–plus it works, right? (Although, depending on some parents to be quick to demonstrate the “right” anything can often be maddening.)