Five things I learned while watching my kids play at the park

10:00pm Monday 16 May — You might have noticed that I gave myself the weekend off from writing. I just wanted to hang out with Lauren and the kids. Recharge the batteries and try to get some new material.

It’s bloody tough to write once a day and keep it interesting. No editing, no proof reading, no brains-trust. Just a conscious flow of rambling thoughts. Luckily, the humble kid’s playground seems to have provided me with some inspiration.

During the last 48 hours, I’ve found myself at no less than four separate playgrounds. Whether bike riding, playing baseball, climbing on the equipment or just chasing one another around, there are a few observations I’ve made that might come in handy, next time you see a child (or the child is yours) losing their shit in a playground.

ONE: Mr Whippy is an ice cream predator.

Whippy is a dodgy preschool dairy dealer and he knows that ALL the kids want his product. It took me 35 years to realise this, but the second I saw that bastard rock up to our school playground, right at the time that 500 screaming under ten year-olds and their siblings were let out for the day, it became crystal clear.

It’s not your fault that your kid is wigging out because you won’t let them have ice cream at 3pm on a Friday — it’s the ice cream man’s fault. News flash buddy. Next time I see you and your jingly bells dinging up my block, I’m going to let down your tires and tip over your cart. Last thing I need is an exhausted kid who will not get off the ground to walk home because I won’t let him have a damn ice cream! Damn you whippy!

TWO: Teaching your kid to defend themselves is important. I am not one to judge your parenting style, or your ability to control your child, or your attentiveness to the situation — well maybe in my head I am, but certainly not to your face while at the park. Come on, you know you do too. Then you go home and tell your partner about it, don’t you? You probably say something like “Holy crap, you should have seen this little shit bag kid at the park…”

Maybe you are one of those weirdos who writes after the dust has settled on Facebook, one of those crazy posts that start something like ‘To the parent who simply didn’t care that your child was creating problems — aka bullying — everyone else in the park…” and then proceeds to tell them off with a good old fashioned social media parental ear bashing. I love that parent. #dontfeedthetrolls #likeandshare ;)

We’ve all been ‘that parent’ who can’t seem to keep their kid from hurting themselves or another, but there comes a time when you need to help your own either avoid injury, or take charge of a situation. This weekend, I had an incident where George kept getting manhandled by a kid a little bigger than him. He just wouldn’t leave him alone, so I taught him how to charge at the man. You can see him practicing here. Watch it. It’s funny and he gets me pretty good. I’m quite proud of his fearlessness. He just needs to work on his application. #hatetheplayernotthegame.

THREE: Your kid going into melt down makes me feel better about being a parent.

You know you feel the same way. We all walk with our around jogger prams and micro scooters and balance bikes in constant terror that our kid is going to be the one that loses their mind and refuses to walk anywhere while screaming directly in your face at decibels that are likely to break glass.

Every time we see it happen to another parent we mutter to those around us things like “Yikes, he’s a tough one” or “Oh wow, I feel for her”. Inside though, we’re laughing and giving ourselves a little high five because it confirms to us that we’re not the only ones with gremlins who care none for rules. It confirms to is that we’re not the biggest parental failures in the neighbourhood.

Lauren and I saw this one particularly enlightened child letting his dad have it today. It was glorious. I believe the line I uttered was “At least Max and George don’t go Chernobyl like that kid. That Dad is going to lose his mind as soon as he gets in the car.”

FOUR: Some of us are there to spend quality time with our kids. Others are there to get a break from the madness.

Over the last couple of days, I have been both. My reference to the above mentioned Facebook parental shame is of course tongue in cheek, but it is important. Without knowing exactly what is going on in a person’s life, you can never be sure as to why a person acts the way that they do, or similarly why their kids act the way that they do.

If you’re at a park or a playground and a kid is going ballistic and their parent seems to be off with the fairies, it’s most likely that they’re in their very own happy place — and they need to be there. Think about the craziness that occurs in your home from as early as 4am. How many times have you said to yourself “Get me out of here!”

I’m guilty of it. I have a set play though that helps me out. I deal with the early morning, weekend craziness by suggesting an excursion. “Let’s get out of here guys! How about we go to the park?”

This past weekend I was lucky enough to be sitting quietly on a bench in Oz Park, in the sun while Max and George were chasing some kids and screaming their heads off. I couldn’t see them, but my spider sense kept them on my radar. I didn’t need to see them, I just needed to zone out in morning sun, drink my coffee, soak in some vitamin D and recharge my batteries.

As I looked around the park, there were a few other mums and dads who were doing the same. We were quietly participating in our very own meditative session, trying desperately to drown out the screams of our collective children, seeking nothing but a mindless moment of solace.

“Namaste” we mouth at one another. “Namaste, namaste, nama-Maaaaaaaaaaaax! Get off him!”

FIVE: You’re not losing your mind

I’ve always really loved listening to music. No matter where I am — work, home, play — I love having a tune playing. Since having kids though, it’s harder to do so due to the exclusive nature of headphones. I have to be able to at least hear what my kids are up to, even if I can’t see them.

So lately I’ve taken to quietly playing Spotify while sitting in the sun, amidst the other parents seeking solace through playground meditation.

This morning I happened to stumble across The Pixies, Where is my mind?

The band’s Wikipedia says that the song was inspired by Black Francis’ experiences while scuba diving in the Caribbean. I swear to God it could have been inspired by him sitting in a park on a Saturday morning watching parents and kids go head to head for 45mins before leaving in a screaming mess.

Almost three decades after the song was written, it finally dawns on me how pertinent it actually has become to my life, and I’m guessing the lives of those parents around me.

With your feet in the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
But there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself

Where is my mind..

Like I said, some of us are there to spend quality time with our kids. Others are there to get a break from the madness. If you’re feeling that your home life is borderline madness, perhaps the park could be for you.

Wheeeeeeeeere is myyyyyyyyyyyy miiiiiind..

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