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At the playground: are you watching, playing, chatting, or working?

Yesterday, I felt that we enjoyed a rare moment at the playground, a moments when each member of the family was actually out there playing.  Parents and kids alike, we were all monkeying on the bars and going down the slide.  It was great, great fun.

To be honest, it is not a frequent occurrence, to find us adults out there playing.  Many times, a stop at the park is time for the kids to get their wiggles out before dinner, to kill time between activities, to meet up with others so mamas/papas can visit while kids play, to buy a little time of distraction so working mamas/papas can check their email or return calls.  Gosh - did it feel great to play!

Really, though, is the playground more just for kids in your experience?  Do you use it as a way to find a distraction for them so you can do something else?  Or, do you find yourself out on the playground with them, goofing off and playing all together?

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When I take my 4 yo to the park or playground, I'm happy to push her on the swing or spot her on a climbing structure that's maybe a little big for her, but I see it as her playtime. I watch, she plays. Frankly, I get really annoyed when I see parents or caregivers going down the slides with the kids (seriously? you're not 4 any more) just as much as I can't stand them talking on the phone, texting, or whatever that keeps them from paying attention to their child. I can't count how many times I've seen children pushing other kids, dominating a piece of playground equipment, or just generally behaving badly and the parents are paying no attention whatsoever. What a great opportunity it *could* be to connect with the other parents.

Back when we went to the playground regularly, it was for my kids to play - not me. After they outgrew the tippy toddler stage and I didn't need to follow them around, I didn't. I sat on a bench with my book or talked with a friend, keeping one eye out just to make sure everything was ok.

(To address what nepdxmomof3 said, I completely agree that parents with aggressive kids should take a more active role. That annoys me, too. Fortunately, my kids have always been very mellow - if not shy - around other kids at the playground, which has allowed me to be as hands-off as I am.)

The idea of "playing" with my kid at the playground seems very tedious to me. I'm not knocking those parents who enjoy it! But I have never felt compelled to play with my kids. I involve them in lots of things I do: I cook with them, read to them; they help around the house, we pick berries and make music together, go on expeditions, etc.. I will ooh and ah at their lego creations and fabulous dress-up outfits. But I have never considered playing with them part of my job. That's what they do. And that goes for the playground.

I'm one of those parents who plays with their kids on the playground. I go down the slide. I climb on the equipment. I get down underneath the equipment and serve "ice cream" (handfuls of playground bark) to my kids and any other kid who wants to join us. I consider it to be one of the great joys of parenting to be able to play like a kid again.

Perhaps part of it is that I work part-time, and when I am with my kids, I want to be *with* them, not away from them. Perhaps another part of it is that my son is ASD, and I need to be right there to monitor his play, since he can get aggressive when things don't go his way. But I think it's mostly that I just enjoy playing with my kids!

We spend a lot of time at the park and usually, it's a time for them to get their wiggles out and play while I sit still to watch or chat with other moms. My boys are great friends and love to chase each other and have their own little games that they play on the equipment, its very rare that they ask me to join them. Often times though, we'll bring a soccer ball along and I almost always kick it around with them and if my husband is along we get a small game of family soccer going, it's fun! Occasionally, we play tag or hide-n-seek and I will join them too, but for the most part they play their own games and are happy to be at the park while I'm happy to take the chance to sit on a bench and enjoy the fresh air. And yes, I do check email and FB too but not obsessively, and not without also keeping close tabs on the kids.

It would never bother me to see an adult go down a slide. I think parents should do want they want at the park, whether it is play with the kids, get a conversation in with a friend on their cell or in real life, or sit and read. As long as they're still monitoring their kids and everyone is enjoying themselves I don't see a problem. I have one kid who likes interactive play with me at parks and one who would rather do her own thing. I try to honor both, and if I'm tired or want to relax (which is often), I sit down and read or glance at email.

And for every parent that I see not paying attention to their child's behavior I see one hovering and micromanaging. I try to aim for the middle ground.

Sometimes I play (more so when I had just 1 kid and he was pre-social, so I was IT for interaction); more often I wrangle the toddler and the older one runs on his own. Husband plays more than I do; am kinda jealous (looks fun!) and kinda relieved, bec it's just not in my nature, really. Looking fwd to toddler growing up & doing her thing--sigh!

Can't handle the micromanaging or the aloof behaviours either.

I like to play. We adults need to remember to play. It's hard sometimes with all we have to do, but I try to make time for play sometimes. It sure feels good!!

I usually have no interest in playing. I'm either watching, or on my smart phone. And i think that's okay.

I play so much of the time at home that I love the park because I don't have to! My boys are now happy to run off on their own and join whatever action is already going on or to create their own. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting the stink-eye from parents who might think I'm being too uninvolved (as I often bring my knitting or read some emails because I finally can or just sit quietly and tune out for a few!), but I figure the playground is the natural place for kids to be without me needing to hover.

I do play occasionally but always watch. I guess there are inattentive parents on every playground based on the comments. I certainly see them on my neighborhood playgrounds.
But I don't understand the negativity towards parents who go down the slide or swing. What is the problem? If you don't like it, don't do it. The way the equipment is made, I don't see anything being broken due to adult use. I also don't see kids waiting in line when adults are playing.

I don't mind parents playing if they are doing it for fun, but I see a lot of parents hovering or acting as a social crutch for their children.

Wow. So when I think I might be being judged at the playground, I am right. Can we all just take a deep breath and let each other parent in the way that is right for each of us? And I thought it was hard for my kiddo to break through social mumbo jumbo at the park.

Wow. Despite adulthood, I so love to swing, and am blissed that my kids are now old enough to swing with me, rather than have me push them. One of the reasons I love being a parent is that it reminds me of the joy of childhood...And the problem with this is...?

I am often on my iphone or reading a book. If I am entertained, I am likely to want to stay for longer (and not be thinking about all the other things I should be doing elsewhere), so it's a win for the kids.

We're players! One, it's fun. It's called 'play' for a reason :-)

And two, our nearly-six-year-old daughter still wants us to, and we want to be with her. Getting sweaty and giggly at the playground or running around on the field is something that we definitely enjoy doing together as a family.

In contrast to others who have posted before me, I certainly don't go to the playground to connect with other parents.

I fee you "grouchy mom!"

I feel the looks at the park. Maybe I'm viewed as the micromanager, or sometimes the iphone checker, or maybe the socializer (on the rare chance I meet a friend at the park). But what is important is that I keep an eye on my kids! I have an adventurous 4.5 year old that is drawn to danger and is very social that I keep a lot of attention on and an almost 2 year old that is super quiet but also adventurous who disappears like Houdini sometimes. I've got my hands full!

I hate being judged. Please mind your own business and go talk to your friends or read or knit or something, But please keep an eye on your kids!

Oh my goodness! Seriously, people, this is a *playground* we're talking about. Based on the comments above, I'm not supposed to play with my child, nor am I supposed to read/check email/knit. Basically, I'm supposed to make idle chit-chat with other parents while carefully and meticulously watching my child without hovering but also without neglecting? Really, sit back on the park bench and relax a little. Play, don't play, read a book, look at the trees. As long as my kids and I are happy and safe and respecting those around us, I feel good about us being at the playground! And, frankly, sorry for those people who care if other adults go down the slide or not.

It's funny that it doesn't occur to people that the person I'm on the phone with is one of my other children. My kids have a large age range. One day at the park a mom wanted to snark at me for texting and not paying enough attention, of course she only had small children and so a smaller world...I explained that I had two other older kids who were trying to plan things and check in and that I was keeping an eye on ALL my kids. As far as parents playing, as long as they aren't bossing or managing other people's kids on the climber and playing safety cop or blocking the flow of play then go for it. People need to butt out.

I kind of let my child play the lead on this one. She's an only child (so far) so often the playground is for interaction with other kids. I can, and do, play one-on-one with her at home. However, if she obviously wants to engage with me then of course I play with her. She's also pretty young so I do some swing pushing, climbing/slide spotting, etc.

That said, I've also been known to be the Mom sitting on the bench with one eye checking emails (one of the perils of working from home) and the other on my daughter. I've also been the Mom blowing bubbles for the whole playground, and I've caught myself totally 'helicoptering' as well. I try to follow my daughter's lead of what *she* wants since we do go to the playgruond for her benefit.

I just choked on my coffee while reading the comments. I've probably been in each of the scenarios that have been painted here.
Pssst! Hey you, Judgemental Mommy! Your thoughts on what I am doing (or not doing) at the park are a complete waste of your time. Truly. Your glimpse into my parenting is just that, a glimpse. I might be having an "off" day. My child might be having an "off" day. Maybe we're both feeling especially playful and are running around like a couple of crazies. If you see something dangerous, please speak up and be a member of the village. Remember? It takes a village and in that village there are many different types. We're all in this together. It's such a mental drain on everyone to tear each other down over petty things like this.

Now that my kid is 6, I am usually a watcher, chatter, reader. But if he wants a game of hide and seek or kick the soccer ball, etc. with me, I will oblige. When he was younger I was more involved and helping and playing and being on the equipment. He was a walker/climber/runner/try everything kid at a very young age. I did not find that stage very fun at the park. Now it is great and I particpate by bringing snacks and drinks, setting up playdates at the park, bringing the bike/scooter/skateboard/sports gear making sure he is safe, plays nice with others, etc.

It is so depressing to read so many comments (and contradictory ones at that) criticizing other parents. Why do you care what someone else is doing at a park, or the mall, or wherever? Absent the evidence of criminal neglect and abuse, ignore it. They are not your children. You may not like it but this is not about YOU. Stay home if you need your surroundings to conform to your rigid expectations. Your home is your castle and you can control it as you will. Leave the public spaces to the rest of us who manage to get along just fine without judging and second guessing each other.

So much of the Mommy flack speaks to women (and men) who have too much mental energy on their hands that they have to direct it at others. If you want to micromanage and evaluate performance to rigid standards, hop back into the workplace or find something else to direct your attentions.

Sheeeshhh

Wow, Pam. Nice lecture on not criticizing other parents, and then jumping to the conclusion that the people doing so need to "hop back into the workplace."

Do whatever. Just please pay enough attention to keep your large kid from using his size and strength to bulldoze the little kids, or your spirited kid from using his spirit to bulldoze the other kids, or your mean kid from using his meanness to bulldoze the other kids. If your child is waving a big stick at a little girl who is crying and holding her hands over her head - well, where is your gaze? Where are you? If your kid can play nicely, share the equipment, take turns, and not step on/jump on/kick/punch/hit others, then text away, chat away, knit away, play away. If not, you have some teaching to do. Sometimes, parents need to butt in to keep their own children from turning into playground tyrants - and to release the other parents from their unsought role as your surrogate.

anon, On the same note don't put your toddler on the climber and then start yelling at kids for running and climbing and playing. There are many times when overly protective parents freak out when kids are just running around having a good time and they act like their snowflake needs 5 feet of space or quieted voices or they try and direct what kind of play they think is appropriate in the park. THere are all kinds of kids at the park and if you don't like spiritedness perhaps your yard is better suited. Maybe you should teach your kids to use their words instead of going around intimidating children who don't play to your standards. I don't require a surrogate and you can reserve your parenting rules/style/beliefs for your child.

Lost words...maybe you should teach your kids to use their words so that YOU don't have to go around intimidating children who don't play to your standards. Thanks.

Sorry. You're not entitled to trample/bully other kids if they get in the way of your play - or as part of your play. If you can't be at the park without hurting other kids, you need your parent beside you to help show you how. No matter how "large" your parent's life is.

Reserve your parenting rules for your child? When my kid is getting bullied by yours? That's like advising: If you don't like my smoking around you, just don't breath.

I have a different playground question-- What is up with parents who do not want to engage in conversation at all? I thought I could find fellow parent friends at the park, but have all but given up as I have met so many indifferent people who barely give a one word reply to friendly questions or even make eye contact for that matter.

I'm with Chillin' - I think she has the right idea. I've been on both sides of the fence. Sometimes I'm on my cell, with one eye cocked in the kiddos direction always so I can keep a lid on anything that needs it. Or I'm playing, with my kid and any others who want to join in (interestingly, I was doing just that recently with my kids (playing "pirate ship") and the other boys there got into the game too - their 3 parents stood around talking - which is totally fine by me - but looking hard in my direction, too - I totes felt the judgement!). But you know what I say? Who cares?? My kids having fun, your kids having fun - hooray for everybody, right? I'm not into judgement. Live and let live, I say. We all have "off" days...an "on".

As an experienced long-term therapeutic foster and adoptive parent, I've learned one thing about playgrounds: they have adult cliques. It is the prime place where parents who have appointed themselves experts-on-everything get to eyeball everyone else and pass snarky judgments. It's especially bad if you have special needs kids. But really, every child and parent is fair game.

I will agree that parents need to supervise their kids. One difference I've seen is when I was growing up, every mom and dad in the park was unafraid to speak up to a fellow child: "hey you, there, honeypie, don't be hitting him!" But now everyone is afraid of village discipline. Maybe I am wrong but it seems the worst offenders are often the parents who pride themselves the most on being the best. Their kids can do no wrong. Personally if I have a child who is disruptive, mean, unkind or just plain a pill to others, I think that is time to leave the playground and let the others play in peace. Taking a firm but humorously loving stance usually works for me. And yes, there are days when I PLAY with them! I love racing the tunnel at Penisula Park. But other days I sit on my fanny and read a magazine. It's all good....or it should be all good. :)

What a truly awful thread. I love the parents that are going to bully other peoples kids because they don't behave to their standards. And others give the stink eye to moms on slides. And still others can't believe that parents dare talk to other parents instead of helicoptering around. What is wrong with this town? I try and be friendly and mind my own beeswax but honestly, if any adult dared approach my child and began to give them guff over their perceived transgressions it would be ugly. If you wanna drag out your 'holier than thou' soap box drag it on over, climb on up and give me your best shot at a parenting lecture but leave my children alone because the difference in size, age and development combined with the fact that you have no authority or permission makes you then very person I've warned them about.

I am a parent of two energetic, sweet boys, my oldest has Autism. I am going to admit it, I'm not and never have been crazy about playgrounds and reading the above thread reminds me as to why. I never can relax. I can't even really sit on the bench and just watch my kids(I know that's my issue), much of it is because I am very protective of my older son and because he lacks awareness at times I want to make sure he is safe and also feel the need to sometimes pull him aside and remind him that there are smaller kids on the equipment etc. He is a very well behaved child but social situations can be overwhelming for him. I have noticed on occasion that people look at me like I'm an alien because I watch my kids so closely, the last time I went to Mount Tabor Park I actually got a dirty look for paying attention to my son. I try to ignore it but I do feel judged.

This thread is hilarious! My babe is only six-months so I have yet to deal with playground politics.

I still don't understand. What exactly is wrong with a parent playing with children on the playground?

I've logged more hours on the playground that I care to remember. And only rarely did I observe the fighting, blatent bullying, etc. that many commenters feel certain is going on. Are we maybe projecting a little bit here folks? After all, from the sound of this discussion thread, it is we parents not the kids who need lessons on how to get along.

Hmmmm, this is a crazy thread, not sure how to even start to respond. I think I'll head to the playground instead:)

I went to a workshop on play and how it effects kids present and future and while it is invaluable for them to be playing, our playing with them is neither positive or negative...they may occasionally ask us as parents to join and/or commentate but it is really and truly their domain...they are good at it and truly do not require our help...

Good lawsy. This devolved quickly, didn't it? Good to know that parent cliques are a standard of playgrounds (...work, block, church, PTA, hmm....). And, I too sometimes wish some parents were friendlier, but, oh well; on the days/parks that's not the case, I simply enjoy my kids/the trees/rain, whatever. It's a public space, people, in which the "public" -- in all its glory and horror -- congregates. Make the best of it, model behavior for your kid(s), practice what you preach, etc. And, if it's a bad experience, try again another day/another park.

Ew.
The worst thing about these judgemental, preachy, unjustifiably smug, playground mommies is what kind of example they are inflicting on their children. Please, just stay away from the playgrounds (and my kids, and me) all together!

Eh - I think we are all reading a bit too much into this. I take my three to the playground. Sometimes, I play. Most of the time, I don't. Sometimes I strike up a conversation with another parent. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I just want some quiet time while my kids are burning off steam. I am self employed, so I often use the time to check email and catch up on things. I figure doing it while the kids are playing at the park is better than sitting them in front of a movie.

I agree with the poster who said that we are just seeing a glimpse into people's lives. Unless there are blatant issue of neglect, etc., mind your own business, and set an example for your kids - one of being a kind, caring, non-judgmental member of the community.

Sigh...

Hear, hear, Mummytothree.

Oh man. I was recently at the playground with my (spirited!) children, who were taking turns going up the slide (one of several slides at this playground). Another child came over to the slide, and before my kids had a chance to let the child slide, her mother came over to me and basically told me I had to tell my kids to use the slide "the right way" because her kid wanted a turn.

Now, don't get me wrong. I do usually tell my kids to go down "the right way" but there was something about the mom's tone, coupled with the fact that she didn't even give my kids the chance to share the slide, that just brought out the mama bear in me.

There were a lot of choice words I wanted to use, but what I managed to get out was, "Show me where the rules on using the slide are, because all I see is some kids having fun." Because really, who says you have to climb up the ladder and go down the slide? Oh, no one, that's who.

The worst park experience I had, though, involved my kids playing lightsabers in the field area of a park (not near the playground equipment and away from other kiddos). A younger boy was transfixed by my kids and looked like he wanted to join in so badly. Until his mom turned to him and said, "Don't look at those boys. Only bad boys play with weapons."

Oh, KS, you are my new friend! I thought only my boys brought their lightsabers to the park and got the glaring looks!

my son and husband play lightsabers at the park all the time! We try and bring a couple extras to share. It is great fun. What is wrong with Lightsabers. We just have one rule you only hit lightsabers... and I like to sit and watch, occasionally get up and help play but only when requested. My son is 3 almost 4 and is just starting to make friends at the park.

"Because really, who says you have to climb up the ladder and go down the slide? Oh, no one, that's who."
I just want to point out that technically that's not true. It's a basic safety rule designed to avoid collisions and promote sharing/turn taking. You can check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Public Playground Safety Handbook: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/325.pdf , or just google playground safety and climbing slides. It's a fairly standard rule promoted by safety groups and adopted by playgrounds all over the world - although I have no idea if it is specifically a PPR rule or not.
Now, is that rule arbitrary? Maybe. I've never seen any kids injured in slide collision (although I've known two! people who have broken their childrens' legs by sliding with child in lap). I can imagine it more at the older giant slides (like the monster that used to be at Grant Park) than the short plastic modern ones. The rule our family has always used is that you can climb the slide if we are the only people at the park, which happens more than you would think. (We also allow tummy swinging, which is another safety no-no) But if there are any other kids on the playground, we climb the ladder and go down the slide. It's partly safety, partly courtesy to avoid monopolizing the equipment and making other kids feel unwelcome. Because that, I have seen.
Another note, that relates to the original point of this thread. Nearly every discussion of playground safety says parents must engage in active supervision of their child on the playground; some experts advise that a parent should stay right next to children under five on the playground.

Regarding light sabers - I can't imagine why anyone would care if you had a light saber at the playground - or why you would care what someone else told her child about it. But I imagine you would care if someone threatened or actually hit a child with a light saber - or a big stick. That's a whole different thing, and not a matter of "playground politics" or parental bullying, as some posters have tried to imply.
I don't care if kids climb trees, or ride on the top of the plastic cars at the grocery store or go head first down the slide (or climb it, if they're not bothering others) or wave light sabers. I do care if they hurt or threaten other kids. And I do think it is up to their parents to pay attention and teach them not to. And whether parents are paying attention is part of the original point of this thread.

hurt, or threaten, or trample, or intimidate.

Sometimes I play, mostly I just watch. I'm new to Pdx and wish more moms were friendlier on the playground as I see it as a great way to meet neighbors. My 3 yr old son was recently bullied on the playground by an older (maybe 5 or 6) boy. What happened is not relevant. I saw the whole thing, although could not overhear. The bully's mom was texting. I sure wish parents took more notice as to how their child plays while at the playground and how they interact with other kids they don't know. Little bullies unchecked often grow up into big bullies.

Oh man, anon, I read those playground rules you linked to--apparently sweatshirts with drawstrings are also a no-no. Bet most of us have broken that rule before.

Of course, the CPSC is also the wonderful organization that almost brought down the homemade toy industry due a few years ago, so I do take their suggestions with a grain of salt.

Like tummy swinging and climbing the slide when there's no one else there, sweatshirts with drawstrings are a risk you take for yourself and your family only. But if you are trying to prevent collisions, you are talking about consequences that affect other people as well.

If we get to the park and there's a parent who is demanding that children conform to their rigid notions of acceptable play I just tell my kids to ignore them. If they try and manage play my kids will politely say, "I'm not allowed to speak to strangers" and go on playing. Not long ago my son was approached by a mother who didn't approve of him climbing on the outside of the slide tube and said the sound of his shoes was upsetting her daughter. Yikes. Like some other moms, I have rarely witnessed actually episodes of violence, bullying or abuse...mostly they seem annoyed at their lack of control in a public place.

That sounds typical of some super sensitive preschoolers I've known. So, are you saying the little girl had no "right" to be bothered, or that the mother had no right to ask if you child could do something else while her child was actually using the slide ... to slide? Was it really such a hardship? This kind of sensitivity hasn't been an issue in my family so far, but that doesn't mean my kids - or any kids - will have their play ruined merely by trying to be tolerant of someone else's needs.

Pauline asked, "What is up with parents who do not want to engage in conversation at all?"

Um, did you read the comments on this post? Best thing I have done in my 10 years as a parent was STOP making friends with the other parents.

That's right. I don't think she had the right to ask him not to climb on the climbing structure. He wasn't blocking or impeding the slide even a little since he was on the outside...she could still slide. As for being bothered, she had every right to be bothered I guess, but no right to expect other kids to take on the responsibility of trying to respond to that level of sensitivity and to spend their whole time at the park trying not to offend someone whose demands go well beyond respecting the established and sensible ground rules. And, I don't consider her demand in the context of the situation "a need".

I'm sorry - is the slide in this situation set up as a climbing structure?

"Not long ago my son was approached by a mother who didn't approve of him climbing on the outside of the slide tube and said the sound of his shoes was upsetting her daughter."

"I don't think she had the right to ask him not to climb on the climbing structure."

Assuming it was just a tube slide, it was probably against the park safety rules for him to climb on the outside of the tube - not that I would care even a little. That part is your business. But in this case, if it ALSO was scaring a little girl who was trying to use the slide as intended, and if it would cost your son probably a whole two minutes to not scare her, then why not?

Everyone needs to chill out. If no kid is being hurt then they can all do what they want. Talk about first world problems!

Oh, even in poor places where there are no playgrounds, I'm sure people are wondering why they can't all just get along.

Well first, like most large tube slides it was attached to a climbing structure so part of the structure. Second, I didn't say scared, you did which is disingenious, I said upsetting which is quite different and again we're talking about the sound of his shoes. Third, it might be two seconds or ten minutes depending on her interest and since he has a limited amount of time to enjoy the park and was not gating her ability to access the slide she had no right to limit his opportunity to climb because the sound of shoes upsets her. That's not reasonable in a loud, crowded, crazy park. Oh, and thanks for pulling out your invisible rule book, I'm sure it makes you feel superior. My kid is a reprobate and a bully. Gotcha.

Or maybe just age-typical not-too-thoughtful of others. Which is where you come in - or not.

Wow, moms, take a deep breath. First of all, my kid is sensitive, but while I expect other kids not to push her for not going up the ladder fast enough (which has happened), I also expect that if she is having an overly sensitive moment (the sound of shoes, perhaps) I can offer her another option at the park. Maybe something soothing like a swing until the other child is finished on the outside of the tube. I think a little understanding, giving the benefit of the doubt and respect goes a long way. Some parents text while their kids play, and while I am more of a hovering parent due to the nature and age of my children, I can respect that some people need to do things other than that. I assume that people know their own children best and will *try* to monitor their children the best they can. If a child does something inappropriate towards my child, I might get involved, but only as far as helping my own child voice her worries / expectations. I might say, "Kayla, you seem upset by that push. Do you want to tell that child something?" I've been yelled at by other parents for doing this, but more than anything, it's a teachable moment for my child to learn to speak up when she feels afraid or bullied.

Lastly, I wish people would just chill out. There's a lot more to be worried about, enraged about, and get up in arms about.

It's interesting that we expect children to share. Not that it's wrong, but we don't necessarily expect adults to share in the same way.

For example, say I want to go to a park and play tennis. If there is already someone on the tennis court, I don't just expect that they let me join in.

In my slide situation, where my boys were climbing up the slide and there were other slides available, why do they necessarily have to share the slide they were at first?

An adult who wanted to play tennis would probably move to the open tennis court--even if the people who were at the preferred court were playing tennis "wrong." I cannot imagine a situation where an adult would say to another adult, "Hey, you're not actually playing correctly, so I'm just going to jump in here and show you the right way to do things."

It's an interesting comparison, but I don't think you'd expect kids to share a tennis game, either. And you would expect adults to share a slide, if adults were interested in using playground slides. The adult comparison might be a line for anything - say a food cart. If everyone is lined up to the left of the food cart waiting to order, and someone cuts in from the right, everybody who has waited their turn feels upset. Or even better, if you want to include the safety aspect - an intersection with a four-way stop.

Regarding several slides on the playgrounds, some playgrounds do designate one slide for children to use as the up slide. Maybe you could ask PPR to do that for your playground.

@anon FWIW, I do appreciate rules and orderliness, and generally expect my children to behave appropriately. My biggest issue with the slide situation was that the other mom just assumed my children wouldn't share correctly and felt she had to step in immediately.

My parenting style is a little more "go with the flow." Can I say for certain that my kids would have shared the slide appropriately? No, of course not. But my kids are usually polite and empathetic, so I can reasonably assume they would have shared the slide--but in her zeal to help her child, this Mom robbed my children of an opportunity to be gracious, polite members of the playground society.

You're right. She shouldn't have.

Great post K8. Your post illustrates how a vicious cycle is created where people prematurely judge and dictate and so deny others the opportunity to act and instead they only react which in turn feeds their suspicion that they must dictate and manage since they never have the occasion to witness others acting in a responsible way since of course they've set up a dynamic where people are constantly reacting...ad infinitum. To make it worse they often get an opposite response from the one they are seeking because of their presumption and delivery which confirms in their minds that their judgments are correct. Must make going to the park a nightmare.
I also think that kids need to be given a bit of time and space to work things out before adults engage otherwise they'll never gain the skills and confidence to do so.

Yeesh, what high emotions here. In the past five years, I've spent a whole lot of time in various Portland playgrounds with my kid - an only child who's now six. Perhaps I'm a little oblivious, but I've never had a confrontation with other parents or felt I was the recipient of "dirty looks" - even though, at various times, I've been the parent typing work emails on my phone, chatting with my sister long-distance while keeping one eyeball on my kid, or playing some game with my son when he hasn't found other kids to play with that particular day.

I've occasionally reminded my kid to be mindful of younger children or hugged him when he got upset that a desired piece of playground equipment was being dominated by rowdy kids -- but for the most part I let things play out organically if nobody's getting physically injured or seriously insulted. That's how kids learn. I sometimes talk with my son afterward, if he is perplexed by how other kids were acting, and he gets upset a whole lot less now than he did when he was say, four. He's learned to go with the flow, which I hope will help him throughout his life.

I don't doubt that the incidents described by earlier posters happened, but they seem isolated compared with what I've witnessed most days at the playground. I really try not to judge other parents -- not knowing their particular situations -- and hope you don't judge me. But if you do, whatever. We're fine.

I take my 3 year old to one of the surrounding playgrounds frequently- usually 3-4x a week to burn off some energy. I have to agree with edie b above. I've never really had any awkward park problems. Parents are mostly friendly. Some chat, some don't. Most seem to tailor their level of supervision to their child's needs. Some play on the equipment, some don't. I can't really see too much to get ruffled about.

Occasionally I have my son play elsewhere if there are bigger kids playing on the equipment in ways that aren't safe for him. We talk about why I have certain rules for him and that other families have other rules. He gets it. I have been known to tell an older child to please be careful around the little ones and they usually move on to somewhere else.

This thread seems a little odd considering the vast majority of my park interactions with other parents and children have been pleasant and relaxed.

I've never had ppark issues . Its just not that *serious*. I guess I've been oblivious to the whole politics of the park, but i don't care what other people think about how i kill time while my boys are playing. Never even given it the slighest thought. Some days I've chatted with other parents, some days I'm on my phone.some days I'm Just soaking up the sun and keeping an eye on my kids. I've never felt the slightest bit insecure about what other parents think of me. So i think most of these comments are silly and actually ridiculous and laughable that its even an issue.

after reading this thread, i found myself at our neighborhood park with one of my preschoolers yesterday. as we played i thought about what the park is to us. and it serves a lot of different purposes. some days it's a stop on the way home from school because it's beautiful, they have energy to burn, and i feel like sitting and decompressing somewhere lovely. some days we go hoping to bump into friends - and we usually do. and some days, like yesterday, i'm there with one child because she asked for that to be our special mama/daughter activity for the weekend.

i'm stunned by this thread. i've rarely seen big problems between kids or adults at the park. i occasionally step in when kids (mine or others) are doing something that seems dangerous or seriously hurtful. that's never been anything more than a quick and calm conversation. i sometimes chat briefly with an adult i don't know. i sometimes (like yesterday) stay right with my kids and play like i'm also 5-years-old. sometimes that's the point. i can't imagine caring much what other adults are doing at the park, really. i wonder if we're going to the same parks.

I've been thinking a lot about the "sound of shoes on the slide" incident. If my child were the one bothered by someone else's shoes, I'd tell him it's too bad - that's part of being in a public place. But if my child were the one bothering another child, I would ask him to move to be polite. Which means that, whatever the situation, I'm teaching my child to accomodate other people. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.

misha, i don't know if it's a good thing or not, either. but i think i'd do exactly what you said. i would expect my kid to tolerate the sound or choose something else to do if she had the problem. and i'd likely encourage her to do something else if someone was bothered enough to ask her to stop climbing.

i think it's about living in community. if my kid's sensitivity was too far from typical, i wouldn't expect other kids to accomodate that at a public park. then again, if a parent made an issue of something (even if it seemed off the wall to me), i'd encourage my child to accomodate if possible. i'd do that with the assumption that either the kid's need was extreme and i just didn't understand what that family was working with, or the other parent was unreasonably demanding and we didn't really want to play near them if we didn't have to. would it be rolling over? maybe. or maybe it would be a show of kindness to a kid who had a hard time playing with other kids. either way - parks are big. and there are plenty of opportunities to argue with people. i'd want to get on with the fun.

It would never bother me to see an adult go down a slide. I think parents should do want they want at the park, whether it is play with the kids, get a conversation in with a friend on their cell or in real life, or sit and read. As long as they're still monitoring their kids and everyone is enjoying themselves I don't see a problem. I have one kid who likes interactive play with me at parks and one who would rather do her own thing. I try to honor both, and if I'm tired or want to relax (which is often), I sit down and read or glance at email.

Are these "playground issues" are a big conspiracy to get moms so distracted by these surface, tiny issues that we ignore all the huge, actual problems out there?

Yeah, this is a luxurious issue to have. I am sure mothers in Syria would love to have this issue right now.

I love going to parks. If there is an issue, I move to another area.

I would like to think we are using our mental energy for something other than protecting our child's ears from annoying shoe-sounds.

I suspect mothers in Syria would love to know that all the former-children-now-adults in their country had been raised from a young age to act with kindness and consideration toward others. If you're not trying to instill humanity and compassion on the playground, then when are you going to do it?

What a strange thread. I haven't had any of these problems at the park. I am constantly on my phone (not talking, but texting and on the internet) or sitting at a picnic table working while my 5yo plays. I get up if she asks me to push her on the swings or watch her do something. Sometimes she demands that I play fairies under the trees at Winterhaven Park with her. Every now and then, I'll go down a slide or swing on the swings. I would never give a crap what any parent thought of me or what any parent was doing with their time at the park. There have been times where a parent isn't paying attention to what their kid is doing, so I'll talk directly to the kid, but always respectfully. My experience has been that kids will give another kid a turn if you ask them nicely. My daughter is a little shy, so I hope that I can model for her how to speak up respectfully when she wants a turn or something like that. (This mostly happens when bigger kids are sitting in the entry to the slides.) As far as talking to other parents at the playground, sometimes I do that, but usually we're at the park because I have stuff to do, but want my kid to be able to get outside. It's not that I don't want to be friends with the other moms, it's just that I'm either busy or feel awkward about it.

I agree that my experience at PDX parks has been great. Sure, some stares here and there - though it's usually because I let my kid climb up the slide (so long as there's not line at the top) - and in reality, I can't say what any of those stares were actually for and what projection/perception lay behind them (nor do I really care).

I talk to the other parents who are sitting on the lawn reading, playing on their phones, sipping their coffee or otherwise enjoying their rest-time, which is what the playground is for me. If I had enough energy to get on the toys, sure, I'd clown around on the swings with my kid...but all in all, I trust him enough to make friends and do his thing and quite frankly, I'm tired after spending the entire day with an energy-filled bubble of constant movement/creation/imagination.

I remember watching a documentary a while back, "Raising Cain," in which the children in a Japanese childcare are allowed to self-regulate. One of the little boys hits another and the adults don't get involved, but rather, watch, as the children socially ostracize him/ignore him until he puts it right with the other child and once again is allowed to play. These kids get practice at self-regulation by their peers and they're good at it! On the other hand, we (Americans, PDXers-even!) adults have acted as a "social crutch" (as one of the commenters here said) for our children for so long that often, when left in a situation like this, they don't have enough practice at self-regulation and so they won't do it, but instead, after an incident like that, look around for an adult, rather than their peers, to help out. The long-term societal implications of this seem rather bleak to me...being that we're raising a generation of humans who are dependent on us to constantly step in and fix whatever minor issue is occurring. It is our responsibility to protect our children from harm but it is also our responsibility to contribute to the raising of a generation of independent and capable adults who can caretake themselves and their environment properly.

I'm not saying that major things shouldn't be dealt with by adults...this is a fine line, and not a black and white issue, however - as another commenter here said, we're doing a lot of projection about our own hopes and fears onto that playground. When someone makes a judgment about something going on there (which, btw, isn't a negative thing - judgment offers the ability to make decisions about what we want to do, and not do, with our kids), instead of taking everything personally, perhaps we can first ask: "Is this person making a judgment about me personally or is this person advocating for children?" Often, it is hard to separate those two things, and often, advocating for children sounds like a judgment on adults...but we are adults who are capable of stepping back and thinking about this stuff.

I am fine with my kid climbing up the slide and I am also fine with another adult telling him to stop doing it. If he looks at me, I will not come to his aid, nor get involved, unless that adult is being abusive towards him. Otherwise, I view it as a good experience for him to learn how to interact with another person in his world that doesn't share the view that he is used to...and all the while, in a safe space, with me nearby. He NEEDS to be uncomfortable sometimes, with other children, with other adults - he needs exposure to the idea that there are clashing world views and opinions, and something as simple as the slide can teach that to him, in a safe space where I am nearby.

This entire thread is a good example of this - many people here with conflicting opinions, etc...which is a GREAT thing for the world. We need that. We need to be uncomfortable and we shouldn't be shocked by our discomfort at reading through these comments (as many people seem to be). As adults, it should be commonplace to us to hear varying opinions and ideas about how our culture is forming (we are a fairly new culture, remember?). When my child grows up, I want him to be able to read through, or listen to, various comments like these and be able to participate fully and openly in the conversation rather than being shocked by the differences he hears/sees.

Nowadays and even more in the future, adults and kids who play and have fun together stay together..adults like to play and have fun and get the kids around as much as possible. Play like kids is healthy and totally neccesary imho

I love to play on playground as it is mainly made for it but sometime watching others playing is also wonderful sight seeing.

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