Postcards from Mommywood: 5 Life Lessons I Learned
at the Playground
Say hello to the new kid—and other important stuff we should know.
My daughter loves going to the playground. Me, not so much. When I first started taking her there, it felt strangely reminiscent of junior high school. There were plenty of kids running around and, much to my dismay, there also seemed to be plenty of parental cliques clustered around the park. For some reason, the outgoing, self-confident woman that I always considered myself to be was transported back to adolescence when the last thing I wanted to do was walk up and say “Hi” to people I didn’t know.
Luckily, I’ve gotten over my reluctance to meet moms this way. As a matter of fact, I’ve struck up some interesting conversations as I’ve stood side by side with moms – and a few dads — while we pushed our children on the swings. I’ve also gotten to know several babysitters, and I’ve made plenty of mental notes on the ones I’d love to report to their charges’ parents if I knew where to find them.
It’s a pleasant enough way to spend an hour once in a while, but it’s really not my thing. In our house, trips to the playground have been relegated to my husband’s to-do list. It’s something special that he does with our daughter on the weekends that gives them some solid father-daughter time while I try to knock off items on my own to-do list.
Funny enough, even though it’s not my favorite thing to do with my daughter, I’m always interested in getting a full report of what goes on at “The Blue Park,” as she likes to call it (named after the color of the large jungle gym that sits squarely in the middle of the open space). I’ve come to see the exchanges that she and my husband have with the children and parents they meet as mini life lessons.
Sure, my daughter gets plenty of that at school, but there’s a built-in comfort level there with all the familiar faces that makes things much easier to navigate. At the park, it’s a constant stream of new people and situations that’s she’s had to learn how to deal with–just like life. When I hear she helped a younger child come down the slide or was less than willing to share the community bucket in the sand box, I use those times to teach her a few important things about dealing with people in that much bigger playground called life.
It’s occurred to me that while I’m teaching her how to make her way in the world, her exchanges on the playground are illustrative of pretty much everything you need to know to get through life successfully:
1. Life is made up of all kinds of people. We’re fortunate to live in a diverse community. On any given Saturday morning, my daughter plays with children whose parents speak Japanese, French, Italian, Russian, and, of course, English. She was delighted to tell me recently that she’d met another little girl who was adopted from China “just like me!” The even better news is that she never describes these children as looking or sounding any different from her; she simply calls each one “a new friend.” I’m hoping that continues for the long haul.
2. Everybody gets a turn (and the corresponding rule –“No cutting!”) If children who are barely out of training pants generally understand that you have to let the people in front of you on line go before you, how is it that college-educated adults think it’s okay to cut someone off for a parking space or slip in front of someone at Starbucks because they don’t want to miss the 8:02? You know who you are—shame on you!