I’m just going to say it- I really do not like taking my child to the park.
Well, that’s not strictly true, we live close to a big country park and I’d happily spend all day there- open green spaces to run around in, meadows full of wild flowers, woods for playing hide and seek, a big fishing lake with a variety of water birds to learn about. This is the kind of park I like.
It’s the playground that fills me with dread. I long to be one of those mums who instigates impromptu trips to the playground and doesn’t find the whole experience to be an anxiety inducing tantrum-fest.
As the playground comes into view my heart either sinks when I see all the swings are occupied or it begins to race as I realise there’s one free and I must do my best to speedily slam-dunk Small Stuff into it before it’s claimed by someone else. (Why is the swing to child ratio always so out of whack?!)
Then, worrying that I’ve disrupted some unspoken queuing system, I become very aware of people waiting to give their child a turn. Kids are openly whining that they want to swing, mums are telling them intentionally loudly that they won’t have to wait much longer. When you’re little I know 5 minutes of waiting feels like a lifetime but just 5 minutes of swinging feels like you’re getting gypped!
The whining’s gone up in intensity, there’s an edge in the mum’s voice as she assures her little darling it’ll be their turn soon. I’m getting a sweat on. I tell Small Stuff that it’s almost time to come off. This is met with vigourous head shaking and scowling, (we all know scrunching our eyes up means it’s not really happening.) I tell her 10 more pushes. I start to count down and kick-off number 1 begins.
Extracting her from the swing is like trying to wrestle a rabid Tasmanian devil. I feel several sets of eyes boring into me as well as a set of teeny fingernails. I think I’m forming pit stains. I tell Small Stuff she can go on whatever play equipment isn’t draped in teenagers or we go home. She begrudgingly moves onto something else.
We then encounter the obligatory, unsupervised
little sod spirited child- the one that shoulder-barges, throws stones, blocks the slide etc. I’m momentarily lifted by the fact there is a child behaving worse than Small Stuff but then the inevitable second wave of upset starts. The Spirited One could not give a monkey’s about any stern words from me. I glance around hoping his mum might notice and intervene, I then panic that his mum might be the scary woman yelling profanities into her mobile phone. I steer Small Stuff away and shadow her around the playground, preventing accidents, sorting squabbles- I’ve had enough.
I never just spring it on Small Stuff when it’s time to go, I give her plenty of prompts but this does not prevent the headline act in her trilogy of tantrums. She thrashes, kicks, screams and lashes out as I try and bundle her into her buggy. Every time. Tired, sore, upset and embarrassed I cart her home thinking I’m not in a rush to go through that again any time soon.
So when I’m met with a barrage of pleas for the playground I fire back with an arsenal of alternative activities. It makes me feel rotten and selfish but I’d rather be ankle deep in loose glitter and moonsand any day.
Will anyone else own up to being playground-dodger? It’s OK, you can tell me!