The playground has rules -- general ones like park closes at dusk, no smoking, no loud music, and please no junkies leaving behind dirty needles. I made that last one up but that really should be a rule, don't you think? Along with if you are going to bring coffee for yourself, make sure you have enough for all the other moms and dads at the park, too. How great would that one be? (Psst. I like mine with milk and sugar.)
But there are some unspoken guidelines that some are mindful of and some aren't. These are rules I wish all the moms and dads and caretakers who go to the park with kids follow.
- Please close the gate when you enter and leave. I get that sometimes we forget, but just like you shut your door and lock it when you leave the house, please close the dang gate. The parks near me are next to very busy streets, and no one wants to hear screeching of tires if the unthinkable happens. Yes, I'm watching my kids as they run around, but you know how fast accidents can happen -- the gate should be securely closed, pretty please.
- Don't feed the children. Unless they are yours and you cleared the food with the parent. And unless you want to deal with the horrible consequences that come with a child with food allergies eating something they shouldn't be eating. And unless you want to be that mom that spoils dinner. No one wants to be that mom.
- Don't leave food out on your stroller tray and expect other kids not to eat it. For some reason, kids are drawn to other people's food more than their own much to the dismay of everyone. So if you prepared a deliciously healthy sandwich for your child to eat, leaving it out may mean your kid will never end up eating it. For example, I learned the hard way that my child loves seaweed chips. But only if they are someone else's seaweed chips.
- Play nice with other moms, dads, and caretakers. Yes, our kids should play nice, but there is no reason we can't be cool to each other either too, right? No, we don't have to be BFFs just because we happen to be at the park with our kids at the same time (though it would be nice to make friends wink, wink), but we should be able to maybe smile, nod hello, or even share some small talk (mood willing).
- Don't expect the other parents to watch your child while you are on your cellphone. I have my eye on my kids, and yes I am paying attention to the other kids too, and if something bad happens to one of them, I'll help out, but I can't be responsible for your child -- unless you want to bring me some coffee.
- Clean up after yourself. If you or your child spills food that can be easily picked up by other kids and eaten, it would be super awesome if you picked it up instead so the other kids don't come by and eat the food that is mixed in with the dirt around it. This also goes for those squeeze packets I see lying around with dirt and germs all over the sippy part. My daughter finds those particularly delicious, but is now learning how to be the park "maid" and throws things away. Which I guess is good.
- Don't judge other parents by just what you see at the playground. The time you see a mom at the park is just a small snapshot of her life. You don't know how stressed she is, what went on earlier in the day, whatever behind-the-scenes things she may have going on. So if she does seem odd one day, don't be quick to judge her for that. I think deep down we all know when we should worry about someone's behavior and when we shouldn't make assumptions.
- Never discipline another person's child. Kids can be little brats. They can. Even mine. Sadly. Still, it's never okay to scold another person's kid. Talk to the parent if you feel it's necessary.
- Yelling is prohibited. Okay, sometimes you have to yell -- like when the gate is left open and you see your child running really fast for the street or your peanut allergic kid is about to eat those peanuts belonging to another kid, but yell, YELL, YELLING is such a buzzkill for all the park-goers. I feel like it sends everyone into a frenzy. Let's try to keep it mellow and have a sunshine-y day.
Okay, no one is the picture of perfection, and I know things happen and all these rules are sometimes broken without meaning any harm. But LISTEN TO ME! WE NEED TO FOLLOW THEM. Yes, I was yelling. I'm such a rulebreaker. But I have coffee for you, so I hope we're cool now.
What would you add to the list?
Image via BFS Man/Flickr