Ah, the playground…
It’s an enchanting place where kids get to be kids. Children are the stars and on display as their silly, spastic, bouncy, and adventurous little selves.
These little stars, though certainly the VIP’s of the park, have brought their assistants along as well…their parents.
While at the playground, I sometimes can’t help but find myself observing/judging the other parents (oh come on, you know you do this too!). Seeing the wide variety of parenting styles in action is fascinating/annoying/intriguing.
Over the course of countless hours of this observation and study, I have noticed that a standard cast of characters seems to emerge.
Thus, I present to you…
PARENTS AT THE PLAYGROUND: A CAST OF CHARACTERS
THE MICRO MANAGER
This might be the character that drives me the most insane. Listening to the Micro Manager for any length of time will make you desire to wrap duct tape around your head so it does not explode. The Micro Manager sounds a little something like this:
“Billy, watch your step!” “Billy, don’t hop!” “Billy come over to the slide!” “Billy watch out for that kid” “Billy be extra careful on that step!” “Billy walk around this way.”
Did i mention that Billy is 5 years old?
Sure, when your kid is 13 months old and can barely walk, you have to provide some vigorous guidance so they don’t plummet straight off the side of the jungle gym. Past a certain age though, the constant direction starts to get loony. Chillax, Micro Manager. Hover if you feel it’s necessary for safety reasons, but let's just take the nagging down a few notches.
There’s a boy running around the playground like a wild man, but no parent seems to be with him. The parents of the other kids all find themselves looking around subtly, waiting for someone to emerge and notice that their little wild man has shoved a younger kid out of the way on the steps, is climbing up the slide repeatedly while kids wait at the top to go down, and screams, “I am the Hulk,” over and over in some little girls face.
After 20 minutes of this, the Absentee mysteriously appears from nowhere, tells wild man that it’s time to go home, scoops him up, and disappears. Where has this parent been? Did she he/she see any of this happening? I want answers Absentee!!
It always begins innocently enough, “How old is she?” the Comparer says. Upon receiving your answer, more questions come…every question getting progressively more obnoxious. “Does she say the ABC’s? Emma just started singing the entire alphabet song” (Emma is 18 months old). “Does she go down the big slide? Emma goes down it backwards while clapping her hands!” “Has she learned the periodic table of elements yet? Emma loves Zinc!”
Though I am happy for Emma and all her achievements, I can’t stand her mom/dad. Please save me from the Comparer. (P.S. my daughter’s favorite element is Boron.)
You and the snob are both standing close to one another watching your kids play in the same area of the playground. She looks normal, so you figure conversing might be a pleasant way to pass the time.
Heck, maybe you’ll strike up a lovely conversation, exchange numbers, and become good friends. No such luck. The snob barely utters a response to your polite conversation starter, and suddenly finds it urgent to go push her child on the swing in a completely different area of the playground. To this I declare: “Fine, snob, I didn’t want to talk to you anyways!” and make a mental note in my head how much cuter my child is than hers.
We all do this one to some extent if we have toddlers who are learning words, but some parents take this to a whole nother level. The narrator follows their kid around and talks incessantly about every single thing they do. “Jimmy slid down the slide!” “Jimmy went up the steps!” “Jimmy climbed the ladder!” “Jimmy ate a cheerio!” “Jimmy kicked a rock!” “Jimmy’s kicked another rock!” “Jimmy got the rock out of his shoe!” “Jimmy cracked corn!”
…and I don’t care.
Please Narrator: just let poor Jimmy live his life!
You aren’t even sure how you ended up talking to the busybody, but you find yourself listening to a lengthy explanation of every parenting choice she (the busybody is always a she) feels passionate about.
She wants to make it clear to you that her daughter Betsy doesn’t even know what a television is, has never tasted a simple carbohydrate, and that Betsy will remain rear facing in her car seat until the age of 8.
The busybody usually serves up these statements with a side of condescension.
I think that perhaps the reason some parents become The Snob is because they fear The Busybody.
THE PLEASANT PARENT
The majority of parents at the playground would fit the role of our last character, the Pleasant Parent. This mom or dad strikes that ideal balance between hovering obsessively and being completely M.I.A.
The pleasant parent has a general awareness of what their kid is doing, converses politely with fellow parents, lets their child enjoy himself, and resists the urge to prove their worth to anyone. Let us all make a pact that we shall play the role of the pleasant parent at our local playground. It would make an already cheerful place even more delightful.
Whenever I leave the playground after observing these characters in action, I say a little prayer for Billy, Wild Man, Emma, Jimmy, and Betsy.
May they somehow develop into stable adults despite living with these people.
P.S. Can you think of any characters that were missed?
Let’s make this list exhaustive!
------->Check out Traci's other HILARIOUS post, "The Pinterest Effect."
Traci lives in Nashville, TN and spends her days goofing off with a two year old while simultaneously carrying around an infant who doesn’t like any of the 35 baby holding contraptions in her house. She enjoys watching her husband pass out on the couch at 8pm, making fun of the stuff women post on babycenter, and wandering through the aisles of Target with an iced latte.
Check her out at: http://myjobisamusing.com/