My family and I moved this summer, and we happened to go from a mid-sized city to a small, three stoplight town. One of the clear differences (aside from how accepted my country music obsession is) is that parents have conversations at the parks in a much higher frequency than they did in my old neighborhood. During these oft-polite and friendly exchanges, we’re almost always talking about our kids, like; how old they are, how we feel about this particular playground, and various other pleasant, safe anecdotes about parenting that typically center around how tired we are all and how we would do (pretty unspeakable) things for a full night's sleep. You know, normal parent stuff.
However, I kinda really sorta (definitely) wish it was more widely accepted to dig a little deeper during these conversations, and say all the things we want to say about other people’s kids. Of course and absolutely in no way do I mean this to be, like, a verbal free-for-all where people bash other people's children and/or other people's parenting. Absolutely not and never. Instead, I simply wish there was room to stop being polite and start getting real, like '90s reality television shows but without all the public intoxication and judgmental monologues.
What I’m really talking about the compliments that we don’t say for fear of being weird or coming off weird or having someone assume we're "weird," and posing the legit questions we're afraid we should already know the answers to. Of course, it would also be nice to voice some of the actual concerns that are meant to reflect on our parenting more than theirs, too. So, in the name of scary transparency because why not, here are a few things most mothers would really like you to know about your kid or kids:
"No, Really. I Seriously Appreciate How Sweet Your Kids Are Being To Mine."
My little guy is at the stage where he loves to follow big kids around the playground. I try to offer compliments to the moms or dads around when this happens, but I’m not sure I always convey just how much I really and truly appreciate it. My toddler looks up to anyone who's more than three-and-a-half feet tall, so when the other kids are setting a good example, it matters more than they know.
"Those Older Kids Are Being Jerks, But Your Kid Is A Champ"
It would definitely not be cool of me to talk badly about other kids, so I would really try to avoid outright saying something like this. That said, I’ve cringed on a playground more than once, and have considered voicing the very valid reasons why.
"I Really Hope Their Daredevil Ways Don’t Give My Toddler Any Ideas"
Of course, I get that older kids will play more adventurously on the playground equipment than my little one would or even can. I’m not going to ask them to play any differently because he’s present (as long as their games aren’t literally “push the toddler” or something similar, because no). Still, the shaky smile I give when your kid is climbing on TOP of the tunnel slide is code for dear god almighty I am the most afraid right now.
"Where Do You Shop For Your Kid? Those Clothes Are Perfection."
I mean, obviously I won’t go buy the exact same outfit since clearly our kids frequent the same park and I’m not a total monster. But would you mind if I perhaps bought it in maybe a few different colors if I promised not to wear it in the same places I know you and your kid are bound to frequent?
"I Don’t Want To Be Another Random Stranger Who’s Like, 'It Goes So Fast...'“
"I Miss That Age"
My son is two, so mathematically speaking there aren’t too many kids younger than him. Still, whenever I see a chubby baby that’s smiling and snuggling and not fighting off their nap for the second day in a row, I’m inclined to sigh wistfully in their general direction.
"I Can’t Wait Until My Kid Is That Age"
There’s plenty to like about his current age, but that’s not to say that I’m not looking forward to the days when he can have legit conversations and when we can totally ditch the stroller for outings and when he can tie his own shoes or wipe his own behind. Seeing you interact with a small human who can reply in full sentences makes my heart flutter.
"I’m Terrified Of When My Kid Is That Age"
I can’t even talk about this. I can barely picture him in kindergarten, let alone beyond that. Your school-age kids give me the shakes.
"Something Weird Is Going On With Their Clothes, But I Don’t Want To Be A Creeper By Pointing It Out"
Probably because I’m at eye level with everyone's ankles while I’m wandering around, spotting my son when he gets too close to the edge of the jungle gym. It’s for this reason and this reason alone that I’ve noticed that your kid’s shoes are untied and/or pants twisted and or sweatshirt is on inside out.
"You Don’t Need To Apologize. Seriously, My Kid. Does The Same Stuff And All The Time."
In fact, if you try to apologize to me for random toddler things, I will just invite you to join my secret mom club, where we talk about this stuff openly without judgment or shame because #solidarity.
"Your Kid Is Like Three-Times The Size Of Mine, Could You Please Ask Them Not To Wrestle?"
OK, this is where I step in. But, you can still join my club if you want.