Friday, 24 June 2011

Wendy's Guide to Park Etiquette

When did going to the park get so complicated?  Oh yeah, that’s right, when I became a parent.   Since then, I have learned that, although they may not be posted, each park has its own unwritten rules that, if broken, will result in a combination of death-stares and loudly whispered remarks about your competence or lack thereof.   
While in the past I must admit that I have handed out my share of death-stares, ever since we moved to the big city I find myself on the receiving end more often than not.  This is not totally my fault; you have to remember that, not only am I still adjusting to the fact that I have two children to chase around the park at the same time, but I am also new to the area, and apparently this province has its own special park procedures that I was completely ignorant of.
Sure, all the regular park misdemeanours will get you in trouble – if your kids are throwing rocks,  not taking turns,  pushing or hitting, you better make sure to avert your eyes because the death-stares will be coming your way.  But I keep forgetting that we done moved to the big city now, and they got themselves some fancy-dancy parks ‘round here.  I reckon us country folk has to do us some book learnin’ ‘fore we even be able to get on the swing set. 
All joking and bad accents aside, I have never in my life seen parks as complicated as I have since we moved here.  They have swings that look like they will launch you into outer space, and about half of the parks have their own ‘splash pad.’  This basically means that the park has its own fancy sprinkler system to keep the kids cool in the summer.  However, these splash pads are active all summer; meaning that on a cool day your kids can still turn on the water if they so choose or if you so let them.  This is what got me in trouble.
The first few times we went to the splash pads everything went great; Prince especially loved pushing the buttons to turn on all the water.  The trouble came when we went on a cloudy day and Prince still wanted to go push the buttons.  Being the hillbilly that I am, I did not see a problem with this.   At least not until Prince turned on the water and all the other kids at the park were inexplicably drawn to the wetness, despite the fact that they were bundled up like tiny snowmen.  This of course resulted in dozens of moms, nannies, grandmas and babysitters running frantically after their wards screaming “Nooooooooo!” as if they were auditioning for a Wes Craven movie.  Needless to say I have now been banned from that park.
Since I have so much time on my hands now that I can’t go to the park anymore, I thought I would do all you other moms out there a favour and write up all the unwritten park rules.  Here is what I have so far, and if I missed anything, please let me know so that I don’t get banned from another park – there are only so many within driving distance you know.   So here goes:
Wendy’s Guide to Park Etiquette:
~I know that it hurts when you bang your head on that stupid bar that they put across the top of slides and monkey bars, but please try to refrain from repeating all the colourful names you know of for the idiot who decided to put it there.  Remember, if you don’t want your kid (or someone else’s) to repeat what you say to your mother-in-law, it isn’t proper language for the park.
~If you are lucky enough to have a child old enough that you don’t have to follow them around the park, take pity on the moms who don’t get to sit down and teach your child that younger kids need more time to do things than an older child, so older kids need to be patient and gentle with them.  Kind of like how wives have to treat their husbands.
~While it can be hard to keep the mama lioness at bay when your child is being mistreated, no one wants to have someone else discipline their child.  If you see a child doing wrong, find the appropriate parent and let them handle the discipline.  Don’t worry; you will have lots of chances to practise your discipline skills on your own child in the future.
~Speaking of discipline, have a plan.  You and your child need to know what will happen if they misbehave before you go to the park.  Whether you use time outs, bribes, loss of privileges or threats, I won’t judge, just please use something.  Be the Smokey the Bear of the Playground: Remember, only you can prevent AWKWARDNESS.
~ The last thing you want to do when you are at the park is worry about cleaning.  No, scratch that, the last thing you want to do at the park is step in someone else’s mushy banana.  So maybe cleaning up a bit is not such a bad idea.
~Remember the Golden Park Rule:  let your kids do only what you want other kids to do.  Kids are copycats – if they see someone doing something and not getting in trouble for it they will want to do it too.   So if you don’t want someone climbing up the slide when your kid wants to go down it, don’t let your kid climb up slides.  ‘nogh said.
~Be friendly!  The best part of going to the park is meeting other moms.  Whether you are Miss Popularity or Miss Homebody Hermit, say hello, talk about the weather or comment on the latest Hollywood fiasco.  For SAHM's in particular, this may be the only rational adult conversation they get in a day, so throw them a bone and be nice.   Besides, when you are nice to the other mommies before your kid has a temper tantrum over taking turns on the slide, it is a hell of a lot harder for them to give you the death-stare.
~Always bring bandaids and snacks.  They most likely will be required to calm down and tape back together your child or the children they have injured.
(The following is meant to be sung to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song)
‘Thanks for listenin’ to this story bout Wendy and her kids, a poor country girl who don’t got much in her head.  I hope that now you will have fun at the park and avoid the death-stares and the unfriendly remarks.


  1. There's a park right near my house. I call it "The Snooty Park" -- death stares and Lulu Lemon as far as the eye can see. So, in order to spare myself the misery, I DRIVE to a friendly park further away. Sigh.

  2. curious where you all live. I live in 'the big city' and have many parks within walking distance and have never had negative experiences nor heard of anyone being banned from a park.

  3. I've had the death stare from other parents (usually the snooty kind over nothing) and I always make a point of walking over to the 'starer', cheerfully introducing myself (no matter how I feel) and launch into a conversation about how wonderful it is to have a park nearby where children can learn and grow their social skills, despite the occasional setbacks.

    Usually works in one of two ways - we get into a converstation about why they are giving the death stare or they don't come back for awhile. Either way, my day is better and my little one gets to enjoy the park.

  4. I've also never experienced the death stare, but then again maybe I'm just oblivious to it! Also curious where "the big city" is? I hope you can return soon :)