10 Times I Hate Being At The Playground With My Kid

by Norah Vawter
nullplus / iStock

My son’s not quite 3, and I’m already over the playground. He would spend hours there—any day, twice a day, three times a day, all day. I love that my kid loves to be outdoors. Some days the playground’s fun for me, but too often I’m biding my time, waiting to leave. This is a theme of motherhood, isn’t it?

Motherhood, at least for me, is all about coexisting with this little person my husband and I created. I stayed home full-time for the first year and a half. Now I’m home part-time. Whenever I’m with my son, we occupy the same spaces, and our desires can be out of sync. It makes sense—he’s 3; I’m 35. Of course I want my kid to be happy, but I’d like to be happy too. We still spend a lot of time at the playground. But I mix it up with other outdoor experiences, things like hiking, which we both love.

But now, I will acknowledge the times when being at the playground can really suck. Here are my 10 complaints. Maybe you can relate.

1. When I’m So Freaking Bored

The playground is a place of tedium and repetition. I’m not a toddler, and I don’t want to spend an hour in the sandbox. I’m not delighted by repeated trips down the slide. I already know how to climb up all the ladder things.

2. When It’s Cold

Winter’s begun, and soon I’ll be bundled in coat, hat, scarf and gloves, and still be cold. (My kid doesn’t seem to feel the cold, and anyway, he’s warming himself up by running around.) If it’s too cold to take my gloves off, I can’t even play on my phone. Oh, the humanity!

3. When Chit-Chat Is Awkward

The playground is like a cocktail party, but without food or wine. You’re standing next to a mom, both watching your kids play. Do you talk? Do you ignore her? What if she wants to discuss organic food and you don’t? What if you really want company, but she’s playing on her phone?

4. When My Kid Gets Left Out of the Cool Club

Recently, we met a group of kids and parents who were all together, and several kids were close to my son’s age. He was ecstatic. But they weren’t interested in including a newcomer. Oblivious, my son followed them around. At the top of the slide, an older kid said, “Let’s all go down together.” My son grinned, saying, “Yay!” The older kid said, “Not you.” My heart just broke.

5. When I Feel Left Out of the Cool Club

It’s frustrating when every other parent seems to know each other. Maybe they’re on a group playdate or maybe it’s just coincidence, but if a group of parents is talking to each other and not including me, I feel like I’m back in high school without a place to sit at lunch. (I doubt this kind of thing is mean-spirited. When I’m hanging out with my mom friends, I’m sure we are just as bad, not because we want to exclude anyone but because we’re having a conversation.)

6. When Kids Fight

So much random meanness, and my kid is no exception. I’ve seen him slap a girl for no apparent reason. And so much bickering—over sand toys, or who can use the fake steering wheel, or what game to play. I try not to intervene, but sometimes I have to. In that case, I hope my kid is at fault, because I don’t want to offend another parent or get into a thing where we’re both apologizing. Also, who knows if this kid has issues I’m unaware of?

7. When Older Kids and Younger Kids Struggle to Share Playground Equipment

Some older kids really seem to enjoy hanging out with toddlers and preschoolers. But too often the desires of younger kids and older kids collide on the playground. It’s especially un-fun to explain to an older kid, whose parent or guardian is nowhere nearby, that he needs to be careful not to hurt a small kid—especially when he rolls his eyes and continues the carelessness.

8. When I Meet a Judgy Mom

If I’m feeding my kid milk from a bottle, it’s not OK to comment loudly about the benefits of breastfeeding. My reasons to bottle feed are no one’s business. Neither is my choice to give my kid goldfish crackers (processed food!), let him run around free-range when you might want to be right by your kid, or not put a hat on his head (maybe he won’t wear one).

9. When I Can’t Help But Feel Kind of Judgy

I don’t speak up, but I will admit to judging in my head. Everyone has different parenting styles, and sometimes I think, wow, that is not what I would do. I don’t like judging, but sometimes it’s hard not to, and I feel as awkward as when I’m chit-chatting about organic food.

10. When It’s Soooo Hard to Leave

Leaving is always a fight. I’ll give my kid a five-minute warning, then a one-minute warning. I’ll finally drag him out of the sandbox, off the slide, or chase him away from the swings. Being told that I’m mean, after I’ve let him play for an extra hour, is particularly un-fun.

As I started writing, I thought this article was only about the playground. But, the playground’s a microcosm of motherhood. Am I bored hanging out with my kid other places? Absolutely. Do I find most mom chit-chat awkward? Yup. If I learn to survive the playground, can I learn to survive motherhood? Maybe that’s my next article. Until then, I’m compiling a list of every place my son and I can visit that’s not a freaking playground. Playground, don’t worry, we’ll see you plenty. But we have adventuring to do.