I’ll start off with this: my kid is SOCIAL. He will talk to anyone, anywhere and wants to be friends with whoever happens to be playing at the park when he arrives. Normally this isn’t an issue. My husband and I take our son to the same park every single night, and have been since the time he was kicking around inside my tummy (during a fit of desperation, I heard swinging could induce labor… so I took to swinging nightly in my final weeks of pregnancy). Normally when we arrive at the park, my son runs up to whatever other kids are there, they become instant friends, we exchange a few friendly words with the fellow parents, and laugh as our children frolic around together. Tonight however was different. As soon as my son ran up near this particular group, the parents sent out “are you going to come get your child away from us” vibes. On any other occasion, I would admit that I may have been reading deeper into it than need be, but moments later, the group migrated to a different area of the enclosed toddler park. Still, I thought to myself “perhaps I’m being dramatic and it was just a coincidence that they wanted to move spots when my son got there”. But again, my son ran after them to try and play with their children. Moments later, the group migrated. And then again, it happened for a third time.
I’ll be the first to admit that there are times that my son can be a bit ‘in your face’ and downright obnoxious if you don’t know him. But in this particular situation, my son really had done nothing to this group other than want to play in the general proximity of them. He was not being too invasive, he was not being mean… he simply wanted to play. And yet time and time again, the mom would herd her children away from him. Finally, the mom decided that she was tired of actively keeping her children away from my son and took them to go to the big kid side of the park, past the enclosed toddler gate. However, while doing this, she held the gate open and watched as my son escaped… not saying a single word. No “hey, your little one is trying to run out!”… No “hey sweetie, stay inside here with your mommy”… and No “hey kids, hurry up and close the gate so this little guy doesn’t get out”. She allowed and watched my son run out of the gate without doing a single thing about it. My husband and I believe in watching our son from a distance and allowing him his own space to play, so we had been observing from afar. Upon seeing him make a break for it, I had to go running off towards my toddler track star of a son across the park, just barely reaching him while he was still within eyesight… but I shouldn’t have had to because she shouldn’t have allowed him that opportunity.
I’m not saying that everyone has to like my child. I’m not saying that everyone needs to allow their children to play with my child. And I’m not saying it is anyone else’s obligation to step in to parent my child. But as a fellow mother, I do feel that it should be instinct to watch out for the well being of other children… meaning that when you see a child trying to run out of the toddler gate, you don’t actively hold the freakin gate open for them to run out of sight. When I’m at a park watching children play, my first instinct when witnessing a kid about to fall, is to lunge to catch them. My first instinct when someone’s child is about to run off while they are looking in the other direction is to alert them. My first instinct is NEVER to turn a blind eye to a situation that could result in a child being hurt or lost.
I feel that the parenting community is a strong one. There is no one that ‘gets us’ like fellow parents do. We should be each others biggest supporters and we should view ourselves as a giant unstoppable team of parenting greatness, driven primarily by the hopes of creating a generation that will thrive. And yet it often feels like parenting is instead turning into a giant competition in which its every parent for themselves…whether it be a rude and unnecessary comment on a fellow mother’s Instagram (adult cyber bullying at its finest), an unpleasant glare from the mom in the grocery store who clearly does not approve of your parenting methods, or the parents at the park who (upon bringing their child to a very public place) expect your toddler to keep a 15 foot distance from them at all times.
It is important for us to remember that our children will practice what they see. Looking out for another child on the playground or giving a fellow mother a helping hand teaches our children to look out for each other as fellow human beings. I feel as though this post could become rather preachy rather quickly, so I will wrap things up… but really guys, can we just all play for the same giant parenting team? We might not all agree on what the most flattering ‘parenting team’ uniform color would be (but let’s be real, its maroon) or what discipline technique is most effective, however I think that we can all agree that we want the best for our babies. In order to give them the best, we need to show them a world that knows compassion and acceptance and love and the value of a strong community… And to do that, it truly takes a village.
The Whine Connoisseur