You know what I’m talking about. Awkward playground situations that send you screaming from the sandbox gripping your child like a football while running back to the comfort of your goldfish scented car. Biting, pushing, peeing, or worse. It’s all there. The playground is where manners go to die for some people. Up is down. Down is up. Boogers are food. Playgrounds are no joke.
I’ve suffered my fair share of playground mishaps but after spending three years at these pits of insanity I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. Here’s how to handle awkward playground situations.
Your kids are having a blast when they’re joined by a kid twice their age who has no concept of playing nicely. He hovers and disrupts your children’s activities nonstop. You want to shoo him away but after brief observation you notice that he or she just wants some attention.
Your kid comes first but don’t disregard the child. Explain to him that it’s important to play nicely with kids younger than him and that he is welcome to join you if he agrees to do so. Hear him out. Be kind and patient. You never know what’s going on at home with a child like this and in many cases they just crave attention. Give it to him and set an example for your children. Be the person you want them to be.
Sometimes it isn’t that easy. If your child is in danger leave the area and explain to your kids why you had to do so and offer them some ice cream. It curbs the screaming from a playground trip cut short. My husband and I were once caught up in a situation involving a seven-year old squirting my two and three-year olds in the face with a water gun.
My husband demanded that he find his father since his mother was at the opposite end of the park watching his watery reign of terror without intervening. The punk took off running. My husband gave chase, confiscated his gun, and waited for his father to arrive.
There’s no tactful way to ask someone else’s child to wipe the river of snot off their face. Forget about a kind request to stop eating it in your presence. I don’t want to hurt feelings but I have enough cleaning to do with my own kids. I don’t need some stranger’s garbage pail kid dripping on me and my kids. Gross.
First, offer a tissue. That usually solves the problem. If it doesn’t, walk away quickly. Redirect your kids if you must. Maybe I’m squeamish but this is my top playground pet peeve. No other people’s kids boogers near me. Keep it moving, please.
Adults with no kids
Parks and playgrounds in public spaces are there for everyone’s enjoyment. I understand. However, when I spot a van with tinted windows pull up my spidey senses start tingling. When I see that the male passenger has pulled into a parking spot my eyes perk up. When I notice a female head pop up from his lap area I’m in fight mode. What the hell are you doing here?
Oh! I know what you’re doing here but you’re not doing it around my kids you freaks!
If you notice suspicious adults stare at them. Hard. Let them know they’re being watched. Then alert other parents. It’s totally possible that you’re overreacting but ask for a second opinion. Pull out your cell phone. Make a show of calling (or pretending to call) the police. Don’t ignore your intuition. Better safe than sorry.
There are plenty of places for weirdos to get their freak on that are far away from little ones. I’ve seen things at playgrounds that would make your skin crawl. Be on the lookout.
Ever deal with any shady or annoying characters at your local playground?
Veronica Armstrong is a photographer, blogger, and freelance writer whose stories spring from the cinderblock walls of her married graduate student apartment. You can find her on Google+ or see more of her writing and photography on her blog.