Playgrounds are boring. I, know it, you know it, the Grand Lodge of Always Exhausted Parents knows it. So what is it all about?
Our little ones seem to have ginormous quantities of energy stored in their tiny bodies. Somehow they have access to huge pockets of raw power they can tap into at will. Yes, this is somewhat awe-inspiring, but just as it is troubling. They have to let off steam, that’s certain. When mums and dads arrive at home from their workplaces or just endured a long productivity session and close the home office, many of us just have one thing in our minds: to fuse with the sofa, or cook a nice–but, dare you, not too complicated–meal before doing so.
But here we have to calculate in the need of our children for movement and entertainment, and learning just how to exist in their bodies. They simply need to practise and develop their sensory motor skills. That’s where the playgrounds in your area step in. There is a good and a bad side to them.
Recently, my wife uttered how much she hated playgrounds (it’s the weaker non-poisonous kind of hate, not the deeply despising, but the rather pet-peevy one). Her understandable reasoning: Despite liking that they provide opportunities for children to have some toy and activity induced toddler contacts and accepting that the alternative of not having them around would be a recurring state of boredom in our children, she admits that she just cannot stand one aspect in parents’ behaviors when they step onto the stage that is the playground. And since she explained it to me, I could not unsee or unexperience it. In others and in us.
So, playgrounds are nice?
Yes, when you look at the functional side and their social aspect, there are many worse places to be for a child when boredom kicks in. Get dirty, get things done (or undone for that matter), scream, laugh. All the nice things can be done and had here. It’s the performative acts of parents that can be witnessed on playgrounds, which, in their tense nature, are so strenuous to experience.
Speaking to their little storms in falsetto voices, while cautiously handpicking vocabulary that allows only the nicest words to tumble from their lips … I don’t know if it’s only a German thing, but I guess it’s a phenomenon that’s widely distributed along all countries that have playgrounds around. For me, it’s the absence of authenticity that does a little bit of the nerve-poking.
Either it’s your little one grabbing for the cigarette butts for the umpteenth time (what are those doing on a playground anyway?) or eating absurd amounts of sand, there are things that will tear your fortress of calm down. If not through the acts themselves, but their pure repetition might do the trick. But on playgrounds we see many parents upholding the illusion of an impregnable sunny mood. Although, we can guess that there’s only a ghost of it left. At least, for today.
Frustration can get the best of you as a parent–sometimes, when your toddler hits specific phases, even on a daily basis. You will feel all the energies, good promises and tolerances leave your body, you will be close to/in tears, you will throw a hissy-fit and curse like a mad person. It’s nothing to be too proud of, but these things inevitably happen. It’s how we react and communicate with our children afterwards that really matters–how we make them know that we love and see them, besides all the big emotions happening. But this is another topic. Let us look at a different aspect for now.
Dropping the act
How refreshing would it be, if more parents would live their true exhausted selves? A Goddammit here, a F***ing Hell there. Wouldn’t that be freeing? If you think about it, it’s not as if we didn’t already know how stressful each other’s lives are. What do we have to lose? There are no secrets left. The lid is blown off and everything is out in the open. We are in the know already, because we–to a great degree–share the collective experience of having a little one growing into their own will and their own power.
But this need of mothers and fathers to fit in and, in a way, stand out as worthy of the label good enough parents doesn’t come out of nowhere. It doesn’t pop out of empty space. It’s just the continuation of what we see on social media entities like instagram or–even to a greater degree–on business networks and job searches. So there is a plausibility in our performances of parenthood. We don’t want to stick out negatively and we wish to be seen and confirmed in our roles as good fathers and mothers.
Although, I am, of course, no one to tell how anyone should behave or act in the presence of their children and other families, but I believe, we could gain something from dropping the act once in a while.
There is a saying here, that goes like this, “always side with cursing parents, for they are to survive”.
Okay, I made that one up. There is no saying like this. But, do you see? There should be one. My point is, let us people be more pure in our troubles. This is no competition. As long as the children’s needs–emotionally and physically–are met, we should be alright. And besides all that, cursing has some psychohygienic capabilities. So the parents who allow themselves some nasty words every now and then are probably more likely to endure tougher times.
The same goes for humor.
So you better have both at hand, when your little bear shows you iteration #245 of I’ll do what just comes to my curious mind.
You got this.
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Thank you, and have a good time!
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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