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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mythbuster: A Day at the Park

If you have been a mom for more than five minutes, you are already well aware of the many things people never tell you before you welcome that first bundle of joy into your life. But if you have yet to experience the toddler and preschool years, you may not realize that playtime at the park is yet another one of those misconceptions that nobody wants to address or warn you about.

Just this morning, I stepped outside and realized what a beautiful day it was. We’ve been dealing with 95 degree weather with a heat index in the triple digits for several weeks here in the Carolinas…so we haven’t gone anywhere outside that isn’t more than ten feet from some sort of body of water. But today…today was a great day to pack up the kids and head to the park.

As I helped my daughters get ready, relaxation was already setting in. I grabbed my latest issue of Real Simple, my sunglasses, and a cold bottle of water and off we went. I could almost feel the breeze on my face as I pictured myself sitting under the shade of a large tree, devouring my magazine, and glancing up once in awhile to smile and wave at my blissful children.

I pulled into a parking space and squeals of delight went up from the back seat. The brightly colored playground equipment was already evoking pure joy in their little hearts. This is going to be a great morning, I thought to myself with a calming exhale.

I watched their blonde hair bounce and their heads bob as they ran off ahead of me. I dutifully smiled and waved before sitting down on an empty bench, just under a large oak tree, exactly as I had imagined. My sunglasses were in place, and my magazine was on my lap. I opened up the cover.

“MOM! MOM! ELLA NEEDS HELP! SHE’S STUCK ON THE CLIMBING WALL AND IS ABOUT TO FALL!” I heard my six year old yelling hysterically.

I tossed my magazine to the side and dashed to the rescue of my four year old, positioned precariously on a very small “rock” about three-quarters of the way up the wall. Standing on tip-toe, I grabbed at her pants until I managed to get a firm grasp and lowered her back down to the ground.

She grinned at me and ran off toward the slide. I watched for a moment, poised between the playground and the awaiting shade beneath the tree. All seemed to be well, so I returned to my magazine.


I jumped up again and hurried to the monkey bars where my six year old was dangling from the very last bar. Just as I reached her she lunged forward and safely landed on the blue platform. “Oh, nevermind.” She giggled. “I don’t need any help.”

Okay, no big deal. Back to the bench, magazine in hand. “MOM! SOME BIG KIDS ARE BLOCKING ELLA AND SHE CAN’T GET THROUGH THE TUNNEL.”

Magazine cast off to the side again, I spotted Ella’s head through the small openings of the plastic tunnel. I gently explained to the “big kids” that Ella was trying to get through and asked if they could please move out of the way so she could get to the slide. They nodded in agreement and I stood nearby until she reached the other side. Success, I thought immediately! So back to the bench I went.

Finally beginning my first article, I ignored the shrieks erupting in the background, thinking those don’t sound like my kids…I’m good for now. Until…“Excuse me? Somebody needs help. Ella is throwing a big spider down the slide and the other kids are scared.” I looked up to see a boy, who appeared to be about eight, standing over me, clearly having figured out Ella’s name in the past ten minutes from all the urgent close calls.

I thanked him for letting me know and walked over to Ella. I knelt down in front of her and tried my best to explain that not all children like spiders, and they wouldn’t all be as fond of her giant rubber tarantula as she was. So could she please just hold onto it and not let it have a turn on the slide because it was terrifying the other children. “Okay, Mom!” She called over her shoulder as she headed off to the swing set.

I drew in a breath and crept stealthily toward my seat, the mission impossible theme song playing in head. I sat carefully, eyes locked on Ella the whole time. She placed her spider in the baby swing and began pushing it back and forth, completely entertained. Feeling victorious, I opened once again to the page I had earmarked.

“MOM, CAN YOU PUSH ME? I WANT TO SWING NEXT TO MY SPIDER!” I closed the cover, this time realizing it was for good. I sighed in defeat and shuffled toward the swings.

Another mom stood on the other side of Ella. She was pushing a little girl with pigtails and an enormous smile plastered across her face. The mom, on the other hand, wore a blank expression and looked as defeated as I felt. For several seconds we simultaneously pushed our children in complete silence.

“Coming to the park means a workout for us, doesn’t it?” She said finally.

“It sure does.” I replied. “And here I was thinking I was going to relax.”

We both laughed for awhile, feeling silly for falling for the illusion that a morning at the park with our kids could actually result in something peaceful and pleasant for us.

And that’s when it hit me. The whole fa├žade of a nice day at the park is very unfair. Why hadn’t anyone told me that before? If I had gone there fully anticipating that I would be running around the whole time, coming to the rescue of every little beck and call, I wouldn’t have felt so disappointed when that was exactly what happened!!

Lesson learned. And I am passing it on to all of you. Park days are not relaxing. They are a lot of work! Just go ahead and leave your magazines and books at home. Dress comfortably and be prepared to get a little sweaty. If you follow this advice, you might actually be on your way to enjoying yourself there!

You’re welcome. ;)

Post submitted by Heather from

1 comment :

  1. Wow, Heather, I got a workout right along with you just reading it! Great article! -Angela


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