I love my kids, and I love watching them play. I do not, however, love taking them to the playground.
I’m just not a playground mom.
I know I don’t need to explain myself to the other non-playground moms. The noise, the small talk, the heat, the dangers lurking around every corner, the battle that will inevitably ensue when it’s time to go home.
It’s just not my thing, and the thought of my little girl falling from the top of a play structure spikes my anxiety a little too much.
My 3-year-old, however, loves the playground.
Less often than she would like and more often than I would like, I pack her up and take her to the park. You could say we’ve reached some sort of balance.
Recently, I found myself at a packed playground with her and my newborn twins. It was one of the first nice days of spring, so of course, the park was packed. I had one baby strapped to my chest, one in a stroller, and I was keeping an eye on my toddler from afar. I’m sure I looked just as enthused as I actually was to be there. That is to say, not very enthused.
Looking around, I didn’t see anyone I recognized, so I planted myself on the outskirts of the play area, giving me space to take care of the babies while also watching my daughter.
“That’s so hard,” I heard a fellow mom say as she walked up behind me.
Surely, nobody could be talking to me, I thought. I don’t exactly look approachable when I’m in one of my least favorite places. As I turned around, I realized that sure enough, she actually was talking to me.
“I can tell you’ve got a kid out there. I see you watching her like a hawk,” the other mom added as if “out there” was some sort of battleground. Guilty as charged.
We went on to have a polite conversation about how hard it is to have toddlers and babies at the same time. Because in case you’ve never experienced it, it’s really, really hard.
I’m not sure who this other mom was. I never even got her name, but I want to tell her thank you. Thank you for validating my parenting experience.
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I walked away from that conversation still not loving the playground but feeling a little bit lighter. Without doing much and only taking a few minutes out of her day, she made my day a little bit brighter.
She made me feel less alone and more equipped with just a few simple words.
She didn’t even give me a compliment or tell me I was doing a good job. All she did was confirm my running internal monologue these days: this is really hard.
She may never know how validating those simple words were.
So, next time you’re at the playground or the grocery store or the doctor’s office and you see another parent doing their best to take care of multiple kids, say the nice thing. Validate their experience. It doesn’t take much. A simple “what you’re doing is really hard” will suffice, and it may just make all the difference.