When I go to the park with my son I am always doing a few things. I always end up pushing him on the swings, I always play hide and seek with him, and I always secretly judge every other parent there.
I usually look at each one and try to size them up. It’s judging a book by its cover I know, but I do it none the less. I try to figure out if they live close by, how old they are, if they are married, what their financial situation might be, if they are happy, if they are healthy and so on.
I’m not trying to decide if they are good or bad people, or even if they are good or bad parents. I mean, they are at the park with their children so they can’t be that bad.
However, I am judging the parents who aren’t watching their children. You know the ones, they are 50 yards away, not paying a single bit of attention to their kid who is hitting others, dangling off the equipment by their ankles and eating fistfuls of sand. I tend to think those parents should be paying better attention, I tend to think they are careless, and then I tend to think that it is only a matter of time before their child gets hurt.
Am I being too judgmental (yeah, probably). More than this, am I the one who is doing it wrong at the playground?
My son has become quite the little adventurer. He is no longer content with just the swing. He wanders the entire playground, climbing on everything. He goes up slides in the wrong direction, runs on the bigger kids equipment and stuffs mulch down his shirt. And in all of this, I can be found exactly one step behind him with my arms out.
Good lord. Am I a helicopter dad? Do I hover too close? Am I doing more harm than good and how do I know?
The average trip to the park goes like this. I try to stand back a bit and let him play on his own…which lasts exactly 5 seconds before I run in to make sure he doesn’t fall off the stairs.
I try again. This time I watch from a very comfortable 5 feet while he interacts with some of the other kids. It all goes well until OH MY GOD HE TOOK THAT OTHER KIDS BALL!
I rush right in to be the peacemaker.
As I am about to give him some space I spot a pug dog that a few hundred yards away. I know the pug could break free of its leash at any second, sprint to the playground and viciously attack my baby, so I stay vigilant.
I wonder what those parents sitting back and relaxing on the bench think of me, running around frantically trying to keep my son standing up and his shoes tied.
So in the end, I’m still pretty new at this and certainly a little over protective. I need to loosen up a bit and relax, but finding the proper balance between keeping my son safe while letting him learn for himself may take some time.
Parent’s who have mastered this, I welcome your advice.