Kiddie park dynamics are one of those topics where people are usually thusly categorized:
1. The childless masses (or "child-free" if they so prefer), don’t really give a rat’s ass. And really, why should they? Once a public area is overrun with tiny people who don’t have a control over their bodily functions it’s pretty much ruined for anyone who’s seeking quiet, peace, or relaxation.
2. The dog-walkers, whether childful or childless, encounter their own risks at parks. For one, if the dog *looks* cuddly, odds are that someone will try to pet it –asking optional. On the other end of the spectrum, there will always be the cranky and maladjusted dog in perfect placement to provide a child’s first –and most indelible– experience in doggie fear and loathing. Either way, if I had a dog I would be asking, nay DEMANDING that my neighborhood had a doggie park because dogs and kids don’t mix as well as people think they do.
3. The parents of small children regard the whole park structure as one enormous and daunting petri dish, where their precious [insert number below 12]-month old will surely get dirty and die. Granted, these are usually the first-time parents (though freaky multiple-children parents can, well, you know, be freaky too. Just less likely so), but you can just tell by the way they hold those kids aloft that they are doing some sort of paranoid series of algorithms to take in the amounts of spit, poop, fungi, abandoned tissue paper and partially chewed leaves that their precious ones will encounter. I had a big problem with my algorithmic calculations: I avoided the park altogether for Herr Meow’s first six or seven months instead.
4. The parents of older children view the park as a godsend. A place with fences where the little and not-so-little ones get to run around, burn off energy, make friends, scream all they want, and where they don’t have to watch them like hawks 24-7? Sign me up, coach! I mean… what is there not to love, right?
This is where the Dun-Dun-Duuuuuuuuun! music gets cued up and you know you’ve entered More of Momzilla chronicles.
Normally, these four categories of people flit in and out of the park and follow some rules, which are understood from the get-go:
a) Thou shalt watch thine kids, or at least pretendeth to watch them.
b) Thy kid shalt keep its hands to itself or otherwise I will stand sheepishly around until thou realizeth that thou, as Neanderthal kid’s parent, need to step in and intervene with thy child’s behavioral problem.
c) I shall intervene if it is mine kid who needs a Dr. Phil intervention; but just for the record my kid is nicer than thine, and he did not mean it.
d) Refereth to
commandment rule a) over and over again, sister: watch thy kids, or at least pretend to do so.
This is common sense and most people will help everyone stand around and have a pretty decent time at the park– sometimes you will not see your kid get in trouble, but someone will and they will kindly tap you so that you can control your offspring. It is a fine system and tends to work well. I won’t get into the weird pockets of frat-boy dads who stand around ogling anything that moves– especially the odd cute nanny; or the bitchy alpha moms who don’t say hello to anyone and who are always keeping an inventory of their kids’ toys so that no one can play with or feel comfortable around them, thus creating a nice little toxic pocket of untouchability around themselves; and I won’t go into the West African or Central American nanny posses who huddle together and try to avoid eye contact.
Generally the park is a nice place to go.
Unless a parent breaks Cardinal Rule A.
A few days ago, what with the days turning nicer and nicer and thus the populace being pushed out of doors in a gleeful feels-like-end-of-school thrust, Herr Meow and I found ourselves at the park. I was standing around watching him and trying to scan the other mothers for signs of life, niceness, and an underlying sense of mordant élan vital, when I saw two little boys in the following sort of dialogue:
Nicely Groomed Child Holding Thomas the Tank Engine Toy: No. It’s mine. Go away.
[child walks away]
Dirty-Faced Child With Shorts and T-shirt in 50-Degree Weather: I WAS PLAYING WITH IT FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRST!! IT’S MIIIIIINE!
[runs fiercely behind in pursuit]
The two kids artfully dodged Herr Meow, who was engaging in his favorite game of Watching The Older Kids Do Stuff Because It’s The Awesome. They kept on at it, circling the main play area, and their dialogue didn’t change much. At first it was kind of cute and innocent. But after a couple of passes, I saw the mother of Nicely Groomed Child –who was keeping a hawklike eye on both children at this point and started talking to her. She was very nice and we talked for a bit, so I asked her if what Dirty-Faced was saying was, indeed, right.
"No, not at all. My son brought that toy from home. Let me tell you: this is the last time that Thomas makes it to the park with us!"
We chatted a little longer, and observed as Dirty-Faced’s temper escalated– he was still in hot pursuit, following the other child relentlessly. At one point, he soliloquied:
Dirty-Faced Child With Shorts and T-shirt in 50-Degree Weather: I AM GOING TO GET YOU!!!! WHERE DID YOU GO? WHERE DID YOU GOOOOOOOOOOO? I WANT THAT TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOY.
The charming toddler only needed to say "Here’s Johnny!" , really.
At this point, both Nicely-Groomed’s mother and I were seriously looking around for the mother of Dirty-Faced but no dice. If she could hear her son’s freaky screaming and carrying on, she was really trying hard to ignore it. And obviously she was not at the other end of the playground, where she could see her kid trying to grab this woman’s child as he went down the slide. Finally, about five minutes later –and five minutes is an eternity when you think your child is going to get jumped by a tiny psychopath– this goofy-looking mother appeared and scooped up the kid, covering him with kisses and whisking him away.
So to recap:
– Goofy mother OBVIOUSLY didn’t see her kid’s psycho behavior
– Because she left him all by himself in the playground (SHE LEFT?!)
– And so when she arrives, she rewards him for being a little psycho
– Because she WAS GONE when he was being a little psycho, wasn’t she? GONE!
Now, granted, nothing happened to either party. No one was hurt and the toy never left Nicely-Groomed’s hands– he stood up for himself without resorting to pushing or punching, and I think that’s great.
But what about Dirty-Faced?
Who will tell him that you are not supposed to chase other people for their toys? Who will tell him that you’re not supposed to lie? And who will tell him to clean his face up and put on a sweater because it’s cold?
Doesn’t Dirty-Faced deserve a mother who will be there for him, even if it is to punish him for being a little freaky boy?
Am I being a Momzilla in this case, or is this reasonable?
P.S.: Happy new masthead to me! Thanks MadSector!
You wouldn’t be talking about Mary McLeod Bethune park, on East Cap street…. would you?
I SO hear you.
Oh, no. I’m scared I’m a violator of rule #1. I pretend to watch my child, but I also get a little too involved in my book. Will do better.