Confession: I hate going to the park.
Okay, maybe “hate” is a strong word. Then again, maybe not.
I mean, I know my kids get a lot out of it — they have fun, they get exercise and fresh air, and all that other “good for your body” crap that I’m not very good at myself, and yet I’m supposed to find some way to get my kids to enjoy. The park forces them to interact with other kids, which is also something I hate doing with other adults. Let’s just say I’m not what you would call a “people person,” but more of a hang out in my comfy pants alone, in the woods, next to fire, kind of person.
But since I want my children to be better than me — healthier, more socially adept, etc. — I take them to the park. All three of them. Together. At the same time. Sigh, I’m tired just thinking about it. So I’m going to vent for a bit.
Here are just a few reasons going to the park kinda sucks:
1. Other parents get up in our kids’ business for being dangerous.
Yeah, kids get hurt. It’s cool. And I know, it’s in our instinct to keep kids safe. But honestly, getting hurt is how they learn to, you know, not to do stupid things. Some of the best life lessons come from falling on your face (I’ve learned so much from falling on my face). Now, if one child is putting another child at risk, yeah. You should say something. But if a child is just doing something slightly risky alone, let it go. Stop being the park police.
2. Yet we feel compelled to watch other people’s kids too.
It take a village, right? I’m going to contradict myself here from number one. I’m sorry, but hey, the park is full of contradictions. It sucks when a child is obviously attention hungry, so they come wondering over to you with the “I need attention” shakes, and start hassling you for attention because their own Mom or Dad aren’t immediately available (understandably). Or, when a child is, in fact, being incredibly unsafe or mean or violent, and you can’t not step in. Or when there are two of those situations, or three, and suddenly you went to the park with three kids, and end up feeling like you have a dozen. Screw that.
3. Parent shaming.
You’ve been there. You’ve gotten the look from another parent when your child does something stupid, like cut in line at the slide or shove a smaller kid off the swings. You know your kid knows better, but then, the light of the park hits them like a full moon, and suddenly they turn into half-wolf half-child feral animal and every parent in the park is glaring and whispering and all of it is directed at you.
4. Awkward social interactions.
Oh my, do I hate the chatty parents. You know who I’m talking about, the ones who come walking up to you, a perfect stranger, and strike up a conversation on politics. I came to the park for my children, not to talk about your Trump love. But at the same time, I often feel left out when I’m standing alone, watching my kids play, and next to me is a group of parents chatting it up like old friends. Frankly, park interactions are an awkward social contradiction, and it makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little from all the anxiety.
5. Park nastiness.
Parks are often full of nastiness: boogers on the slide, that unidentifiable brown smudge on the handrail, and who knows what else lingering on every surface. Then there are the parks without a restroom. Or the restroom is locked ALL THE TIME, so your kids pulls a code brown and you get to smell it the whole ride home because they are potty trained, but not THAT potty trained. Or, worst yet, the restroom is available, so you go inside hoping to avoid an accident only to discover someone literally shat on the floor and then made poop Picasso art on the walls (you know you’ve been there). I’ve never found a used syringe at the park, but I’ve heard plenty of stories.
6. The swings suck.
I’ve said all I need to say. No point in stressing the obvious. The swings turn children into future anarchists.
Parks can really suck, and yet, we keep bringing our children to them. But why?
Well… It’s a love-hate relationship, right?
As a parent, I think this could easily be my mantra. I want to get a shirt with this on it, or perhaps have it embroidered and framed in my house: Parenting: a love-hate relationship. The park falls right in line with this idiom, so if you are struggling at the park, if there are parts of it you dread, if you do and don’t look forward to it, realize that you are not alone.
There are obviously a million reasons to hate it, and many of them are brought on by ourselves (yeah… chew on that for a bit). But at the same time, we all understand its value.
The struggle is real, my friends. So the next time you are at the park, wondering if you are the only one not 100% on board, realize that you are not alone. But please don’t talk to anyone about it. That’s awkward.