When you read the word “playground,” what associations come to mind? Happy memories of the jungle gym (probably rusting and sharp, like in the good old days?), twisty metal slides that were hot in the summer, perhaps? Oh, maybe monkey bars where you were strong enough to do flips?
Fast forward to motherhood: Playgrounds equal “work” now, don’t they? They do for me.
I have to take my boys to the playground. They are great for that 60 minutes of daily play, different types of physical challenges, socializing with other kids… but taking them there is probably the worst part of my day. Why? Two reasons: I am constantly having to manage them while they are playing and asinine small-talk with other mom’s is too damn annoying. Couple those two things with my always being the only Black mom on the playground and we’ve got the formula for a really annoying experience.
I’m always the foolish mom who brings her journal/knitting and an ice coffee to the park. Before we get out of the car, we go through the rundown: “No hitting, no pushing, no throwing dirt, no screaming.” My sons repeat: “no hitting, no pushing, no throwing dirt, no screaming.” I tell them the consequence: “If you do those things and I have to manage you, we’re going to go home.” I see the boys nod in their carseats: “If we break the rules, we have to go home.”
It seems like we always have about fifteen minutes if “good”. They play on the slide, find a friend to chase or something, I get a few sips of my coffee and it feels like we’re doing ok. After that, the rules are out the window. My youngest is throwing dirt, my eldest isn’t waiting his turn on the slide, they are both fighting over the same truck in the sandbox… It can never just be easy.
And then there are the other moms. We’re all exchanging sympathetic and awkward glances as our children navigate the social conundrum of the play. Liberal enough moms who aren’t into assumptions, usually start with the same thing: “Your boys are so beautiful! Look at those curls! So handsome!” I’ve met a few clueless ones along the way. This was my favorite line: “What cute boys. You must love being with them during the day. Are their parents paying you enough for all the trouble?”
I smiled as sweetly as I was able: “What stay-at-home mom is paid enough these days?”
I took no satisfaction in watching her turn Ravens Purple.
(Ok. Maybe a little satisfaction.)
Otherwise, we’re just all avoiding eye-contact, pretending like we care if our kids are following the rules when you know the only thing we all want to do is sit down and read/knit/stare at our cell phones/gossip with a friend. People think that moms on the playground are having a luxurious experience, but I’m telling you, it’s work and it’s not fun at all.
So here we are at the beginning of summer and the start of what I’m calling Camp Mama. This is the last summer where both of my boys will be too young for a structured summer activity. That’s fine, we can’t afford anything anyway! But still, we’re looking at multiple trips to the playground a week from now until school starts again. Pray for me and the other moms out there. It’s going to be a long summer!
Got any strategies for avoiding the playground blues? Am I the only one who dreads the suburban playground scene? I’d love to hear from you!
K.C. Wise is a married Millennial Mom raising two bi-racial (B/W) boys in suburban Massachusetts. You can find out her thoughts about mothering, homemaking, writing, renovating a 100 year-old farmhouse and other musings at her blog: blackbunchedmassmom.wordpress.com.