Yesterday evening I took my kids to the local playground. We live a couple blocks away from the small park and, because it was a nice day, we took the opportunity to walk over. My kids love playing there, but I hate it. In fact, I hate every part of it. I don't want to take them, and when we're there I'm counting down the seconds until it's time to leave. Some of the reasons I'm too anxious to go to the playgrounds with my kids may seem strange or even an overreaction, but I can't help how I feel.
Even when I was a kid I loathed parks and playgrounds, or even just being around active kids. What can I say? I'm an outlier and always have been. During recess I avoided "playing" as much as possible, preferring to, instead, stare the clouds by myself. I clung to the notebooks I often wrote in, or climbed a stray tree in the yard within the safe, familiar bounds of home. But playgrounds? No way. There's too much stress involved. I did, however, manage to break my tailbone in middle school when I went down a slide on a skateboard. It should be noted that no one was watching me and I never did it again, but I digress.
I've had anxiety as long as I can remember, so the mere mention of going to a playground or park makes me physically ill. Now that I have kids of my own, I guess I'm required to take them. It doesn't, however, mean I have to actually like taking them. With that in mind, here's some of the reasons I'm way too anxious to make the next trip to our local playground with my kids. Yes, even when that trip is inevitable.
Because There's Other Kids
When I take my kids to the playground, I'm always secretly hoping we're the only ones there. It's not because I need the whole place to myself, but because other kids usually mean additional stress. There's always the kid no one's watching, doing dumb and potentially dangerous things. There are the kids that may be mean to my kid, with no repercussions from their parent, or entice my children into doing something potentially dangerous, too. I don't want to glare, or have side bars with my kids every two seconds about how to behave around children who are doing something my kids know they're not allowed to do. I definitely don't want to leave early and upset my children.
If we walk down to the playground and I see other kids, my first reaction is to bribe my kids into doing anything else. It's not worth the stress, stomachaches, or whispers beneath my breath.
Because Of The Parental Cliques
The world is a continuous repeat of high school. Through my careers, time spent online, and even the moments I've had at the playground, there are cliques (typically of the mom kind) that, even if unintentional, make me feel like the ultimate outsider.
My family lives in a small town, so if I go anywhere within the 3-mile radius, there's a 100 percent chance I'll see someone I know or know of. It doesn't matter if we're at school, at a local 5k, or the playground, the same groups form and remind me why I'm so anxious.
Because The Equipment Is Dangerous
To be fair, our playground has some newly updated equipment. Next to those much-needed updates, though, sit the old, played-out, rusted equipment. Guess which my kids flock towards, my friends. Oh yeah, just take a wild guess.
I don't want to be a helicopter parent all the damn time, but I care if my kids get hurt. If I can prevent it by guiding them towards something less dangerous (like inside the house with a good book), I will. There's plenty of other ways to let them be kids without having to take them for a tetanus shot from an open cut courtesy of the jungle gym.
Because I'm Not A Fan Of Germs
Everyone knows I'm the mom with massively high levels of anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As a result, I can't handle germs, dirt, bugs, or anything remotely related to the aforementioned, and I won't apologize for it. It's just who I am.
So, in my family we wash our hands often, bathe after playing, and I clean our surroundings frequently. I want my kids to play (even at the playground) and be carefree, but I refuse to sit back and watch them bury their feet in those gross tiny rocks, or carry around a weird bug they found on the slide, or run around barefoot. I can't, and I won't.
Because I'm Not Going To Babysit
To the parents of the kids that no one is watching at the park: I'm not bringing my well-behaved kids to the playground so that I — a parent who does watch her children — can be responsible for your kids, too. I don't care if you're on the phone, in your clique, or paying attention to anything but your kids. If your kid becomes my problem (especially if you brought the kid chasing mine with a stick), we're outta here.
Because I Don't Have A Lot Of Time
My days are packed. I want to take my kids to do things, and I do, but sitting on a bench while my kids run around in one of the most uncomfortable places ever feels like somewhat of a waste. Last night, my kids spent most of our playground time sitting next to me on the bench, arguing about nonsense or complaining they wanted to go home. It's like my school recess days relived all over again. Couldn't they have done all this at home and saved us all the trouble?
Because I Don't Trust People
People in public spaces are the worst. Not always, mind you, but sometimes. I grew up with the idea not to trust anyone because, if I did, something bad might happen. My mom was obsessed with true crime TV and, even though I'm an adult and have been for some time, she's still afraid of me leaving the house. I'm much more reasonable than she is, but still. Going to the playground means having to be in unfamiliar situations with people I may not know. I keep a close eye on my kids (which really amps up my anxiety), but things can happen anywhere and it's better to be safe than sorry.
Because I Don't Want To Play
If I'm going out of my way to ignore my anxiety so that my kids can do their kid thing at the playground, I want to sit on the bench to relax. I've probably been chasing them in the house all day, while navigating around my work schedule and other chores and errands. Mommy needs a break. The moment I hear one of my kids shout "Mom, will you play with me?" it completely diminishes the playground's meaning. Isn't the whole point of going to give my kids the chance to play so I can just sit for a few?