Well, it finally happened. The weather has slowly turned to warmer days and the sun is staying up long past idealistic child bedtimes. With the end of the school year creeping closer, snow days be damned, it is only a matter of time before we’re all faced with the inescapable question, “Mom, can we go to the park?”
Perhaps this phrase elicits picturesque montages of laughing children happily bouncing about in your head. To which you excitedly answer “YES LET’S” as you gather up your SPF 50 and 3 gallons of water for survival.
You own that. Because for me, it does not.
Nope, I hate the park.
OK so perhaps “hate” is a bit strong here but hold your gasp and here me out. I know I’m supposed to “enjoy” the time with my children and feel adoration and bursting heart eye emojis as they laugh and smile and nearly kill themselves on equipment built for ages well beyond their years. (Yes I read the sign but it seems my 3 year old lacks the proper reading and comprehension skills for most park equipment) But to be honest, “enjoy” and “park” are two words that rarely meet within the same thought in my head. Words like “hot,” “work,” “sticky,” and “bored” are more likely to come to mind before “fun” and “enjoy.”
Take for instance, the swings. Every kid wants to swing. Heck, even I love a good swing sesh. What I don’t love is pushing my kids in a swing. I can never push them high enough, for long enough, or underdog-ish enough. In fact, I dislike it so much that I devoted every trip to the park last summer to teaching my 5 year old how to pump his legs and swing himself. Let me tell you, the payoff from hearing his kindergarten teacher mention how he is the only kid that can swing himself was almost as good as 10 years of Arya Stark character investment.
Also, can we all agree on suitable time limits for various park activities? The treadmills at my college rec center had a 30 minute limit by which everyone would abide and it kept the gym peace. Let’s rig that concept up for park equipment. “Sorry Sally, I can not hold you up while you attempt this zipline thing again because you’ve maxed out your time!” This not only helps Sally’s Mom who now has arms of jello from holding up her 30lb toddler for 20 minutes, but it also helps keep Tommy’s Mom happy because now she can finally let him know it is his turn instead of awkwardly standing around loudly saying, “no Tommy, you have to wait your turn!” Literally everyone wins.
Of course this also helps to avoid the inevitable small talk one encounters at the park. There you are, keeping watch as your child attempts to climb the rock wall when another Mom doing the same things slyly walks up and stands next to you. Should I say something?! Is that weird?! Can we both just awkwardly stand here without having to discuss our children’s ages, whether we breastfed, or our thoughts on gender equality?! Can we just stare straight ahead and enjoy the vitamin D that we convinced ourselves we needed? Cool, thanks.
Or we can all just do what I do and take a million pictures and boomies of my kids with my phone to avoid dying from ennui. Do you think anyone that is not blood related actually enjoys your 20 dash IG story about your trip to the park? No, No they do not. But I get it, you’re also bored AF so yes please take all the slide Boomerangs and slow motion swing shots you need to get through. I’m here for it.
Now, before you begin to think I’m a total monster, I have been known to enjoy a visit or two to one of the many wonderful area parks KC has to offer. When the temperature is right, the bugs are not hangry, and the crowds are low…you may even find me cracking a smile. The thing is, we’re all here just making an effort to ensure our kids are exposed to all the fun things we were growing up, or perhaps making up for a lack there of. No matter how much I whine and complain about being dragged to the park by my husband and kids, their gratitude and smiles of pure enjoyment do kinda sorta make it worth it.
Especially if I’m promised a beer afterward. Who says bribery only works one way?!