Playground Rules - aka. Please Don't "Help" Me With My Parenting

Monday, June 20, 2016

We go to the local parks A LOT. Like pretty much every weekday.
Partially because we live in an apartment with no yard, but also because it gets us out of the house and playing with other kids and other toys.

I have a confession y'all, it drives me crazy when strangers try to "help" me with my parenting.

Every other day someone will inform me that my almost 2 year is climbing the play structure by herself (the horror!), the 4 year old is swinging on his stomach (because he's playing superman), or making suggestions about more ways I can play with my kids.

There is no world in which such things are not condescending. To make such comments assumes I can't parent.
Watching kids looks very different from person to person.
It does look like I'm reading my book - because I am. I have spent years honing the ability to watch kids without them feeling like they are in The Truman Show. Being able to observe without interfering is one of the great skills of parenting and teaching.

If you want to follow your kid around the playground in a constant cloud of commentary and encouragement - have at it. Looks like that works for you - awesome.
But, why oh why, is it so necessary to parenting egos to make sure everyone parents exactly the same?

My kids and I go to the park to:

  • play with other kids 
  • play with other toys
  • experiment with things like climbing in a relatively safe environment
  • be loud
  • get some good Vitamin D (also known as "making kids sleepy vitamin")
  • so mommy can get a little reading in, and maybe talk to another adult

I don't go to the park to:
  • obsess over safety
  • fix all arguments or playground disputes
  • judge other parenting styles (seriously. I can't even say how little I care.)
I am an expert on my own kids. We spend an insane amount of time together - I know their limits, strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.

Maybe you have different reasons and priorities at the park, and that is fine. But before you start making comments to a stranger about kids you don't know, consider that you are talking to an expert on THESE SPECIFIC KIDS. It's very likely you are going to put your foot in your mouth.

Would it not be better to get to know our expertise? We each know our kids -wouldn't it be better to tell me about your kid? Maybe ask me a little about mine? 
Maybe we actually have similar struggles.
Maybe we could encourage each other. 

We will never know when that door is being blocked by disrespectful comments. I'm voting for everyone to take a breather, do what we need to do, and consider each other as people first.


  1. Ugh, I honestly don't know why so many people all think and act like we all need to parent the same! Similar thing goes with pregnancy-so many people tend to act like all pregnant women need to act the same and do the same things. Nope, we're all different, have different needs, and our kids have different needs, too! Kirby, have you ever read "Bringing up Bebe," by Pamela Druckerman? This post makes me think of it, because she specifically talks about playgrounds at one point. (if you haven't read it, I really recommend it-I try to avoid parenting books, but I love the alternative perspectives in this book)

    1. I have not read it yet, but I have a lot of friends who have. Should probably put it on my list if I can ever stop finding amazing books off the Lucky Day shelf (and thus non-renewable).

      I think exposure to other norms of parenting is a fabulous way to consider your options. The culture seperation allows for a little perspective. It can make it easier to see what aspects might be helpful.

    2. Oh, the struggle of bibliophiles! Definitely put it on your list for "someday" when you can get around to it :) I agree; I think it is so easy to get locked into certain approaches to parenting as "the best" or "the only" way, when those approaches are the main ones we've seen, so learning about other parenting in another culture is so worthwhile.


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