We’ve been finding ourselves at the park a lot, especially on weekends when Nate is off work. We haven’t traveled much recently, but we know we should at least leave the house. I’ll admit that I want to take a break on weekends. A break from responsibility. Exhaustion from wrangling the kids and managing the business weighs heavy. Frankly, I’m jealous that Nate gets to interact with adults on a regular basis while I cook and clean. By Friday afternoon, I need a nap! But alas, the children require stimulation beyond what our goats and chickens can provide.
So I strap up three car seats and we venture into society.
The community parks and playgrounds closest to us are like the homemaker version of an office water cooler. The neighborhood parents know each other and eye me suspiciously. In officer vernacular, I’m the outside analyst. Everyone knows I’m going to disrupt things and then leave.
It’s true. I come to this place for all the wrong reasons and I am in a completely different mental space than everyone else. I see the judgmental playground rants, the articles about the rules and playground etiquette and I totally go against the grain. When we haul our tiny people to the park to run off their energy, my family is the perfect example of what not to do.
Here are the things you apparently should NEVER DO at the park:
1. Operate the slide incorrectly. It is sloped in one direction for a reason. Things are meant to start at the top and work their way down. Any lingering, pausing or backwards movement is WRONG.
2. Leave your infant sitting in the stroller next to you. Oh, your back hurts? Call the wambulance. This is parenthood, so pick your kid up and play with them every waking moment. I don’t care how young they are, they should be entertained at all times. You’ll get a break when they turn 18.
3. Let dad be in charge. Everyone knows that only divorced dads play with their kids alone at the park. Married ladies, do you want some single gal assuming that your dude is divorced? No. No, you don’t. So cling to his side and dictate his every movement.
4. Play on any given toy more than one time in a row. Even if there is no line, there might be a child vaguely thinking about going on the specific part of the jungle gym that your kid is occupying. The lack of open space could cause this child to have to say, like, “Excuse me, may I have a turn?” That’s traumatic. It could break their brain. YOU MUST VARY THE FUN.
5. Use toys that aren’t their own. God forbid children learn to share. We all know that in this world, they will never need to coexist with people other than themselves. Act accordingly.
6. Play alone. This is a social space, and your child’s failure to include every other person in their activities is freaking everyone else out.
So that’s our weekend. And then Monday hits. Nate goes back to work and the guilt sets in. Oh, the guilt! I tell myself I should get better about taking the kids fun places on my own. I should be more on top of household stuff so I can parent better. I should have more mom friends. This pattern has become a vicious cycle, starting my week off on the wrong foot and ending – yet again! – in a weekend where the best I can muster is a halfway effort at the park.
I’m putting my foot down and declaring that I will no longer spend Mondays guilting myself over rule that I break over the weekend. I’ve partnered with Similac and they have a cool initiative going on right now called #UniteMondays. They’re encouraging parents to use the hashtag to share any parenting moments where they may have felt judged, either by themselves or by others. Rally together to provide support. By sharing stories of everyday moments – both the good and the bad – we can eliminate parent guilt that is so prevalent in our lives today.
What parenting “rules” have you beaten yourself up about breaking?