Yes, that’s me. I don’t pay much attention to my kid when we’re hanging out at the park or kiddie pool or some such place. And some of you probably wonder why as you coach your children up ladders and clap as they champion their way across the monkey bars. Maybe you wonder why I value my phone or a book more than time with my toddler. Maybe you think I don’t care enough about her safety. Or maybe you just think I’m half-assing this whole ‘mom thing’. Well I’m here to put shatter your assumptions and put your worries to rest.
- I do it FOR her.
I actually think ‘ignoring’ my child in kid-filled arenas such as parks and kiddie pools is in her best interest. You see, my daughter and I probably spend too much one-on-one time together. Not only am I her only parent but she only goes to childcare a few hours a week because that’s all I can afford. I actually have the luxury of not worrying about whether or not I get enough time with my daughter because I have the opposite problem: I worry she spends too much time with me and not enough with other kids. When we’re at the park we’re there because I want her to develop her social skills, learn to handle conflict, foster a healthy sense of autonomy.
So when you see me barely glance up from my phone as she trips on the playground or ‘exchanges words’ with a fellow jungle-gym savage, it’s partially because I wasn’t paying much attention and partially because I genuinely want to see how much she can handle independently. She can’t figure out how to get up the rope ladder? I want to know how long it takes for her to figure it out on her own by watching other kids or trying different strategies. You might see her call to me for help but if I don’t think she’s in any sort of danger I’ll tell her to try again herself. Truth is, our kids don’t actually need us to do everything for them.
- I do it because I have to.
I’m an only parent who works mostly from home. That means when I take my toddler to the park it’s so that she can play with other kids and I can have some ‘me’ time [if ‘me time’ means catching up on work emails or getting some writing done before urgent deadlines]. I don’t want to be constantly staring at my phone or laptop when she’s bored at home and vying for my attention. I’d much rather take care of business while she’s otherwise occupied developing social skills and generally having a grand old time. Call it time management if you will.
But if you catch me scrolling Facebook or dishing gossip on the phone, then yes, you’re right, I’m definitely not working. But my friendships and social life are also an essential part of how I thrive. I’m not just mindlessly passing time. I’m doing it purposefully.
- I actually just plain don’t like the park (or any other ‘kiddie venues’).
If I’m at the park it’s not because I want to be. I enjoy watching my daughter do a lot of things but clamber up and down slides is not one of them. So when I’m hankering for some mama-daughter fun the last place we’re going is a park or other kiddie venue. Our dates are a bit more eclectic: museums, ballets, flamenco performances, dancing ‘til we drop at outdoor music concerts. Sometimes we even practice our Spanish and French language skills at group get-togethers [okay so she mostly goes to those for the cake…]
So there you have it. As far as I’m concerned the less my daughter and I interact at the park the better. She’s off developing valuable life-skills and I’m getting stuff done [both business and social]. But on the off chance that I don’t see my daughter fall and you decide to take it upon yourself to help her up or coach her up the rope ladder, thank you. It does take a village.