I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the park.

Love that it’s a free source of entertainment close to my house. Hate that my stress level increases as more and more kids show up.

Too many kids puts me on edge.

There’s the kid that doesn’t want to wait his turn. The kid that pushes others as they make a beeline for the slide. The kid that throws sand. The kid that takes another’s toy. And there’s that one inevitable kid that climbs up the slide despite the line of others waiting to go down.

And it’s even worse when it’s one of my kids!

I feel pressure at the park. Pressure that my kids need to behave perfectly and if they step an inch out of line I need to be right in there dealing with it.

It’s outrageous and if I’m completely honest, somewhat irrational.

And if I can be even more than completely honest, I never know what to do in any of these situations.

If my daughter butts in front of yours should I I jump in to correct her? Should I sit back and let it happen? Should I wait to see what happens after they argue a bit? What will you think of me if I just sit back and watch?

There’s a million things racing through my head when any one of these conflicts come up. And it’s stressful.

And to add to the stress is watching how other parents handle their children in the exact same situation. As I watched another mother scold her son at the park this morning it left me wondering if everything would be better if us parents butt out.

Here’s the interesting scenario that played itself out at the park this morning….

A group of a half a dozen kids ranging from ages 3 to 10 years old were interested in the large tunnel slide. They all wanted to climb the ladder and slide down the tube before doing it all over again. One of the older boys decided to take charge, stand at the top of the slide, and tell the other kids when they could go down. I saw children flying down that slide one right after the other with zero pile-ups at the bottom.  

However, the leader’s mom was not happy. “Don’t tell the other kids what to do.” “You can’t just stay up there, come down here right now.” “Just take your turn.” “Stop bossing everyone around.”

When he finally slid down, she pulled him aside to tell him that he was not the boss of anyone and didn’t have any right to tell the other kids what to do.

As I observed, I wondered what he had done that was so wrong.

The other kids were happy to listen and take their turn. This boy was displaying excellent leadership skills. Kids learn and practice social skills through play, including leading and following. They organized themselves, figured out how to take turns, which allowed everyone to use the slide. I saw problem-solving skills and cooperation in action – all without the help of any adult.

Did she actually think that he was out of line or was she worried that the other parents wouldn’t want their kids being bossed around?

I hate to admit that my park-induced stress isn’t actually related to helping my children deal with other kids. The vast majority is related to me wondering what other parents think about me as a parent.

I wonder how I would react if it was one of my kids telling the others what to do. I hope I would have enough common sense to let the play continue after observing that everyone was being treated fairly and having a great time.

But maybe I would react like the boy’s mom. Maybe I would worry that other parents might think of my child as bossy or that they didn’t want their children being told what to do. Maybe I would let my fear of judgement take over. Maybe I would intervene.

Do you feel like your parenting skills are being judged at every trip to the park? Or is it just me?