Friday, March 28, 2014

Park Regulator Mom

At the park, you will see many different types of moms. You’ve read about Park Moms from other bloggers before. For example, there’s the “Snack Mom.” She’s got a bag the size of a small dog carrier full of Goldfish crackers, granola bars, gummies, you name it. This mom is prepared for any toddler meltdown… and the zombie apocalypse.

Then there’s “Cell Phone Mom.” She came to the park so her rambunctious crew could hopefully entertain themselves in the sand pit for five minutes. During this brief reprieve, she hopes to check her Facebook or play Candy Crush Saga for a just few moments before the barrage of “Mom! Mom! Mom!” comes at her again.

Then there are the “Mom Date Moms.” These mom friends stand in a tight circle talking at a rate of about 4,000 words per second trying to make the most of their thirty minutes of adult interaction. The only thing stopping them from hitting the bottle at 10am on a Thursday are these weekly Mom Dates.

I'm guilty of being all of these moms at one point or another (most frequently, the third one!), but I’m here to talk about another type of park mom. “Park Regulator Mom.”

“Park Regulator Mom” is not to be eff-ed with. If she sees any dangerous, risky or just plain mean behavior, she will Shut. That. Shit. DOWN. “Park Regulator Mom” is a title I bear at every park visit. (I’m thinking of having an arm band made, hall monitor style.)

If there’s a kid throwing sand or wood chips, I will shut it down.* If there’s a kid going up the slide while other kids are waiting at the top, I will shut it down. If kids are hitting, kicking or pushing, I will shut it down. (*Okay, there’s a chance I’ve been watching way too much Scandal. BTW, did you know that Scandal's Kerry Washington is speaking at BlogHer ‘14? And did I tell you I’m going to BlogHer ‘14??!! I didn’t? I know! We have so much catching up to do! Anyway, more on that later...)

I won’t even look to see if the errant kid’s mom is nearby before I start regulating. I probably need to tone it down more than shut it down, but when safety is at stake, this Mama Bear doesn’t eff around.

The role of Park Regulator Mom is deeply rooted in a condition that I like to call “Park Anxiety Disorder.” Those play structures are so big, and there are openings at the top where a small child could free fall with one little slip. Whenever Q gets to the top of one of those things, I have heart palpitations. I know. You think I’m over-reacting. And I probably am. But a while back, I stumbled upon the most heart breaking story on Facebook.

Healing Evan is about a three year-old boy who died after falling from the top of a park play structure. Click on the link of you want to read this family’s devastating story, but grab some tissues first. (And read her post from Jan. 27th. Gut-wrenching!) This has stuck with me, validating all of my so-called “irrational” park safety fears.

Last summer, two year-old Quinn and his friends were at a park (i.e., my mom friends and I were on a Mom Date) when I felt my worst park fears about to come true. Q was at the top of the slide, eight feet above the ground, when a five-ish year-old boy pushed him aside so he could go down the tube slide first. Quinn stumbled near the wide opening at the top… my friend and I ran to the other side to try and catch him… but Q didn’t fall. My son, who is rather clumsy and can suddenly fall just standing still, actually regained his balance and didn’t fall to his death. Yet my heart stayed firmly in my throat.

Three or four kids had started crowding behind Q on the small platform waiting their turn to go down the tube slide, but that same aggressive little boy wouldn’t go all the way down. He would go halfway and then stop himself and crawl back up to the top over and over again. So then the kids at the top started getting antsy and pushy. Quinn was still hovering near the opening on the platform and crying. My friend stayed at the bottom in case he fell while I climbed to the top. I yelled over the waiting children to the grinning boy clogging the slide. In my most menacing Mama Bear voice, I roared, “Get down the slide NOW!” His eyes widened and he instantly disappeared down the slide.

That’s right, punk. Park Regulator Mom in full effect, yo! Don’t eff with the arm band! (Just so you know, I don't often yell at other people's kids. Only when it's an urgent situation and immediate action is required.)

I could give several other examples of Q and his friends being harmed or almost harmed by other kids at the park. I think every park should have an official regulator. Until that happens, I will take my self-appointed role very seriously.

What type of Park Mom are you? What do you do when you see children exhibiting dangerous or hurtful behavior? What are your boundaries for correcting other people’s (even complete strangers’) children? 

Here are a couple of my favorite posts on park behavior from Katie at Practical Parenting