Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An Open Letter to Parents on the Playground: It Is OK to Play With Your Kids

I pulled up to the playground and me and my boys got excited. We come to this playground everyday and no one is ever here. Of course, I was happy about this at first; my social anxieties used to make me uncomfortable around other parents. Over the months, I began to notice my kids weren't having fun because there were no other kids. So imagine our excitement when we saw other kids! Now, imagine our disappointment when we notice you are sitting in your car while your 3 and 4 year olds are playing...Alone and as we approached the play area we heard your honk and then heard your shouts, "Come on! It's time to go!" And then all of our excitement was gone. I know you had to leave and I'm not blaming you for their disappointment but a minute after you left my 4 year old asked me this question: "Dad, why don't they play with their kids?"

I didn't know how to answer that. I couldn't come up with a good answer so I only said, "Some parents can't play with their kids like I can." Which is true. Maybe you had a surgery or you just aren't that young and aren't able to catch up. My kids are great in many ways. One of them being they are always giving me things to think about. This started me thinking.

Parenting is hard. We can all agree on that. All we ever do is deal with kids and when we have a moment, we just want to sit and enjoy it. The little ones are always there and they do not make things easier, that's for sure. But they still need us and play time is one of the best ways we can teach them. Over and over again when I go to the playgrounds that are popular and I see the same sight. Mom's and Dad's just sitting down and messing with their phone while the little ones run around in chaos. Of course, it is not everyone but this message isn't for the 25% (totally made up; number based on experience only) that do play and interact. This is for the phone moms and dads.

Most of the reason I go to this particular lonely park is because it is right next to my wife's work and we have 45 minutes to kill before we pick her up. The other is because I don't have to get weird looks from people sitting down while I am jumping around and playing in the sandbox. I have never liked putting myself in a position where people look at me so I like that I can play tag with the kids and run and slide down slides and jump off swings and...You get the picture. It allows me to act like a kid. You may not realize it but your kids are watching you. When they see you sitting on your phone ignoring everyone they will learn that it is OK to be that way. I think we can agree that is not what you want from your kids. You want them to be social and play with others. You don't want them sitting on the swings with their own phones Instagraming the sun and saying how awesome playing at the park is (which I have seen many time; seriously, anyone under the age of 13 DOES NOT NEED A SMART PHONE! But that's another post altogether). We want them to be friendly and not be afraid to play with other kids.

My point is that it is OK to play with your kids at the park. Let them see you having fun. Let them see you being silly. This is a moment where you can take a break from being mom or dad and be a friend. These little moments go a long way and when they are older they will remember it! Parenting is about having no regrets and raising our children the way they will look back and say, "Mom was so awesome. She was the one all the kids wanted to play with at the park." I am always certain to make moments and traditions that will last forever. When we go to the car; I will race them and sometimes I even let them win. When we are in elevators; I will tell them the elevator needs help and we need to push up with all our strength. These moments will be something my family will always cherish. Don't wait for your kids to create the good times...Create the good times for them.

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