The Park Scene

Just as a day at a theme park proved inspirational (refer to my previous post), frequenting the  playground often leaves me with various reflections on parenting. After all, if you want to see practical parenting, there is no place like park. I find it amazing how kids from various backgrounds, often speaking different languages, play together in one sandbox. But it does not mean there are no issues. There are. There is always someone crying, someone falling, someone throwing sand on other kids’ heads. It can  even be quite entertaining at times. Like a reality show. Yet, many of the less funny incidents could easily be prevented, if the big and little park goers alike followed several simple rules. In the effort of enhancing a park experience for everyone, without depriving our children of valuable life lessons, I compiled a little list of suggestions.

Park Do’s and Don’ts:

1. Bring only the toys that you want to share with other children. Whether it is a bike or a shovel, it is obvious that other children might want to touch it. If you’re not up for it, leave the untouchable treasure at home. One boy chose not to and it became awkward.

One time, as I my toddler was playing at a playground,  he saw a bike with balloons attached to it. Of course he rushed to see the cool vehicle. I somehow noticed that the bike owner wasn’t very sharing-friendly and tried to keep my boy away from the balloons. At some point the biker came to me saying “I don’t want the baby to touch my bike!” Fair enough. Normally I wouldn’t argue. Only that this time, the boy was complaining about my son touching his bicycle while holding my son’s sand toys in his hands. I couldn’t help pointing it out. Seeing his embarrassed face was priceless. 

2. Encourage sharing. Do not force children to share.  Teach them taking turns, trading and playing together. Even my toddler waits in line to the slide patiently if you mention that it’s not his turn yet. Sharing is a good thing and it doesn’t take long for a child to notice positive aspects of being generous. Keep promoting it. Before you know it, they will be doing it without your help. Forcing children to share leaves them disgruntled, confused and feeling inferior and insecure.

3. Teach your child to be accountable for their actions. Do not apologize for your child’s bad behavior, unless they can’t talk yet. Although, even a non-talking toddler can give a hug as a sign of apology.  Do not tolerate a “whatever” attitude. A mean “sorry” is meaningless. Only a sincere “I’m sorry”, followed by a positive action should do.

4. Give children room. Do not watch their every step, do not listen to every sentence they say (and do not question it, correct it or comment on it). Do not intervene in every little conflict. Kids need to learn to sort things out by themselves. It’s a valuable life skill. Your monitoring  cripples them for life and makes you their spokesman for life.

5. Don’t pull out the ‘sensitive kid’ card

The other time at a park, my five-year-old was building a fort. Suddenly, I a little boy next to the fort started crying. I asked the boy’s mom if my son had hurt her child. “Oh, no,” she said. “Your son just didn’t want him to get inside the fort. He is crying because he is very sensitive.” I made sure my son apologized and opened the fort to other children, but I couldn’t believe the mom’s ‘sensitive’  answer to the whole thing. Calling your child sensitive is not going to help him learn how to resolve issues with other kids, is it? 

Another story, from  a water park.

Kids were having fun in the pool. Suddenly one boy swam outside the marked area and a lifeguard yelled at him to go back. The kid started crying. Reportedly his feelings were hurt and he needed an apology to calm down. 

I also know of a sensitive boy has recently yelled angrily at a child to move away from his way down the slide, and when splashed with water by a bunch of scooters riding through puddles, he wanted to “punch them in the faces”.

Sensitivity is great. But here is the news. All children are sensitive. We all are sensitive. But sensitivity can’t be used as an excuse to avoid accountability.

Do remember about children’s sensitive skin, though, and protect it with lots of sunscreen! Something I often forget. Shame on me.

5. And last but not least, let’s try to keep our phones in our purses or pockets. You might think that you’re just making a quick call, a fast check, sending one text. It’s always something important. The truth is it can wait. Often times it’s not that important. And being focused and less distracted when in park with our children is. More important, and more fun!









291. “The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?” by Mo Willems

If you have at least one sibling (or two children), then you know what a sibling rivalry means.  Mommy, why did he get two gifts for his birthday and I got just one? Daddy, she’s got a bigger scoop of ice-cream! Or perhaps, you have had a mean class mate or a jealous colleague, and you don’t need me to explain to you the unhealthy competition, either.  What?! He’s got an A and got only a B?! But if you are up for some giggles or need a way to bridge to your little people concepts of sharing and not comparing, the Pigeon and the Duckling might come in handy.

The Duckling asked for a cookie and got one. With nuts. The Pigeon is furious. How come the Duckling got a cookie, WITH NUTS? Pigeon’s favorite.  The duck got it just by asking for it. The Pigeon asks for so many things and gets nothing. Nobody lets him ride a bus,  have a personal iceberg or a hot-dog party. He doesn’t get a story or a hug, even. Now he didn’t he get a cookie. Why?!

What would you do if you were the Duckling? You’d be the smarter one and gave the Pigeon the cookie, right? And that’s just what happened. After all, you can ask for another one. Without nuts, just to be on the safe side.

Once again, top-notch scribbles and doodles by this one and only master of humor.  Superbly hilarious, inventive and memorable.

239. “It’s Mine!” by Leo Lionni

“It’s mine!” If you are a parent, you are bound to hear this phrase coming out from your sweetly babbling baby’s mouth. Interestingly, children master “mine” even before they learn to use the super simple pronoun “I”. Luckily, there is no need to panic and question our parenting techniques. We are not raising a selfish child. It is just  the “independence” phase. Sooner or later,  children learn to share. Uff.  Or not.

Milton, Rupert and Lydia were three quarrelsome frogs that lived together on an island. They bickered about everything: Milton claimed that he owned the water, the earth was Rupert’s property and Lydia liked to believe she could have the air for herself. Until an old toad couldn’t take it anymore and gave the selfish frogs a talking to. It didn’t stopped the frogs from bickering, though. A storm did. As the frogs had nowhere to hide from the terrifying thunders, but for a little rock, they discovered that “they felt better now that they were together, sharing the same fears and hopes.”

In other words, for some people “It’s mine!” is not just a phase. They are a Scrooge for a living.  But even those people change their minds eventually. They just need something mega-terrible to happen first. Where is the logic here? Go figure.

Another wise and relevant story by this master of story-telling.

77. “Ugly Fish” by Kara LaReau

Ugly Fish was the only fish in the tank and he liked it this way. Teensy Fish wanted to move in. She had good intentions to stay on friendly terms with Ugly Fish, but the selfish Ugly Fish couldn’t care less about company and ate her. Kissy Fish, Stripy and Spotty Fish, they all shared the same fate. Ugly Fish had the whole tank for himself again. He thought he would be happy, but instead he missed the “intruders”. He wished he had a playmate. And then his wish came true. Not exactly, though… The new fish had a wish of his own…

And here is the thing with this book: it is surely a unique take on children’s literature. It is funny, but it is twisted. Usually, picture books are like Hollywood movies, with a happy ending. Not this one. Actually, my sensitive boy covers himself with a blanket by the end of the story. He is genuinely scared of the Shiny Fish! The story is surely engaging, but it is creepy, indeed. Especially when the black humor is reinforced by the not-so-cute  illustrations.

As far as the message, the book does teach an important life lesson. Don’t treat others the way you don’t want to be treated yourself. Be nice, be generous, share with others. The others might become your friends. But, I have to admit, perhaps “Ugly Fish” is not the most suited parable for sweet  preschoolers, is it? Life is cruel, no doubt about it, but isn’t there enough time to learn about it a bit later?