My daughter loves the great outdoors. At least five times a day, she brings me both my shoes from their place by the door and tells me that she wants to go out. She pulls on her stroller and tugs on her own shoes while pointing the door. "More, More," she says, using her catch-all command for just about anything she wants.
Because the area outside my house is essentially a third world trash heap full of old underwear, rusty nails and broken glass (I am not kidding), we usually have to stroll to one of the many parks in our area when Sam starts jonesin' for a fix of the fresh stuff.
Because of this, we go to at least one park at least once a day. As a relatively new mom, I must say the learning curve in regard to park etiquette is surprisingly steep. Do I have to say hi to the other moms? Are toys fair game even if kids bring their own? Can my kid play with the buckles on another kid's stroller? How much time can Sam swing if another kids is waiting? These are some of the myriad dilemmas that often arise during our time in the park.
Who knew such a natural part of childhood could feel so unnatural? These rules are not posted. We have to go with our gut instinct. Yesterday, a 2-year-old Swedish child was taunting my child in her native language while holding the ball Sam so coveted at arms distance. Everytime Sam would get near, the child would snatch it away and say "Mine" (I assume that is what she was saying, anyway). Yes, the ball was hers. And yes, her father scolded her in Icelandic (or Danish or whatever) several times. That was hard to miss. But this kid was not sharing. And seeing my poor baby, her arms outstretched, crying, "ball, ball," made me so sad. And so very, very angry.
When we brought a football to the park last week, I understood that the other kids would play with it. We got it back in the end. No harm, no foul. Same with the doll stroller Sam tried to steal last week (and now she has her own at home to obsess over). Toys are fair game. So, how do we handle a situation where a child will not share and is being cruel to our child? I wanted to scold her, but um, I am guessing that is not my place.
The week before, Sam and I went to a toddler park where a very obnoxious seven-year-old boy chucked a wad of wood chips in Sam's direction. I was so angry, I actually feared I might curse at him should he do it again. It was all I could do not to grab the little sh#t and start pounding him. I might have felt differently if he were a toddler like my child, but he was just a hop, skip and a jump from juvenile hall.
In retrospect, I probably should have hit him. Someone clearly needed to.
Then there is the whole issue of playground friendliness. Typical conversation:
Me: "Oh, hello"
Other parent: "How old is she?"
Me: "16 months--and yours?"
Other parent: "Same."
Long, awkward pause deciding whether to say more. And then:
me: "He is so cute."
OP: "So is she."
Me: "ok, see you later."
It's not that I don't like these people, it's just that I find kid talk to be a bit boring at times. I already have friends to compare war wounds with so meeting new people at the park seems a bit forced. And then of course, there are always the mommies who know eachother well and like to sit in judgement of the newbies, assessing the snacks we bring, the sunscreen we do (or do not) apply, the hats our kids don. These are the moms I loathe and who make going to the park feel more like a jaunt back to junior high than a fun springtime activity.
Where is the love?
I say someone needs to come up with a list of park etiquette rules, a sort of Emily Post for Urban Parents. These rules can be posted at all local parks and the hospital can hand them out after births. This would eliminate all the confusion that seems so rampant.
Perhaps I will get to work on them now.