Every parent has his or her own unwritten rules for the playground
There are some unwritten rules for taking kids to a playground. The problem with unwritten rules is that not everyone knows they exist.
So for the public good, I’ve decided to write down some of these implicit rules as I’ve observed them. These guidelines are based on hundreds of hours logged in public parks in the past three years with my two preschoolers.
#1 – Your child is going to get knocked down when playing with other children. Don’t overreact.
#2 – Your child is going to inadvertently knock down somebody else. Apologize and move on.
#3 – It’s ok to acknowledge other parents at the playground with a head nod, smile or simple “hello.” If you see the same parent at the same park on more than one occasion, it’s then acceptable to ask their child’s name, age and school.
#4 – If you bring snacks to the playground, be prepared to share. Feeding kids in public is like feeding pigeons. Hand out one Goldfish cracker and before long a dozen toddlers will surround you with outstretched arms.
#5 – The swings are a gauntlet for kids just learning to walk. The Frankenstein walkers will inevitably wander in front of the swing set. Then, it’s a matter of luck and timing whether or not they get clobbered by an older kid who’s attempting to swing into orbit.
#6 – Keep your phone calls and texting to minimum. You can’t pay attention to your kids and take an important phone call at the same time. It’s even more annoying when the phone call is unnecessary and/or inappropriate. Nobody wants to be within earshot as you discuss your Las Vegas weekend or ingrown toenails.
#7 – Dogs belong in dog parks, not people parks. Plenty of kids are scared of dogs. So don’t tell me how “friendly” your unleashed dog is when he walks up to my kid on the playground and starts sniffing his ear. Having your canine’s teeth inches from my kids face isn’t cool.
#8 – Ideally, teenagers and pre-teens would have their own playgrounds that offer free wireless Internet and Clearasil. Until that happens, older kids are going to hang out at the same playgrounds as toddlers and preschoolers. This can make for an odd mix, but don’t be intimidated. Usually pointing out to misbehaving teens that they’re passing on bad habits to younger kids is enough to send them on their way.
#9 – Leave the lightsabers, Nerf guns and pony figurines at home. If you show up at the playground with these sought-after toys other kids are going to want to play with them. It’s a scenario that inevitably ends with somebody in tears.
#10 –Don’t assume the dad at the playground is either unemployed and/or using his children as bait to pick up women. There’s a good chance that dad could be me. And, I’m there on official business. First, I’m trying to wear out my two energetic sons. Second, I’m observing and reporting the unwritten rules of the playground.
Howard Ludwig is a former business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.