By Mackenzie Snader
It’s a mile-long walk to the nearest park. With my 22 lb son strapped to my back and our toddler babysittee in the stroller, it’s a pretty good workout. Workouts are hard to come by in my new life as a new mom, so I make a mental checkmark and pat myself on the back. Heartrate successfully elevated for 20 minutes in a row! It’s totally cardio and I win so hard! What a good idea to get out of the house!
Once I get to the park, though, I realize that it is covered with other kids and their parents.
I’m pretty comfortable making conversation with babies. My son, Sylvan, is a year old and says about a dozen words, so mostly the response is my turn, or whazzat? Our 2-year-old friend, Emma, can tell me a short story now and then, but our conversations are overwhelmingly direct. Do you want toast with your egg? Come here, please, I think you have a poop. Making conversation with other parents? That sounds harder.
I should have expected that today, early in spring and almost 70 degrees, all the families would be getting out of dodge and exposing their offspring to a little vitamin D.
A laundry list of social questions cascades through my brain:
Do you make eye contact at the park? With other parents, I mean? And is it socially acceptable to talk to other people’s kids, or will they think I’m a creeper? What if the kid comes up to me and starts a conversation? How close do you hover around your toddlers while they go down the slide? What do I say if Emma lands on someone’s head? How long is the appropriate turn for a toddler to take on those bouncy-animals-mounted-on-spring-things, and when do I kick my kids off to make room for the next? How long can Sylvan cry before other parents start judging me?
Maybe you know the answers. If so, come with me to the park and for the love of all things woolly, please show me the ropes.
I’ve moved cross-country five times. You would think I’m well equipped to adapt, right? But diving into new social spheres turns out to be even more complicated when I’m primarily worried about being a good example and so that my kiddos know it’s OK to tackle new things.
So far, I’ve decided that eye contact and a smile never hurt anyone, even if the other parent keeps a straight face. Sylvan will just have to cry as long as he cries, because we are at the age when establishing that stop means stop right now could save him from falling headfirst into the oven one day soon.
And maybe, after a few months of park visits, Sylvan will cling a little less and swing a little more, and it’ll be a little easier to ask the nearby mom, so, how old is your little one?