There are some play areas in public places that are designed for kids around ages “Crawling well-to-4’ish.” They’re based pretty much on a height limit, usually noted by a body-part of a cartoon animal. “If you can suckle from this giraffe, your involvement is a gaffe!” Some-such… and the parents for the most part aren’t really governing the situation. There’s always a kid who’s too tall and too weird for the joint who’s probably just on his parent’s last nerve. That’s why there’s a Lego store.
I take our oldest guy (2.5 yrs) to a few of these places every 6-8 weeks, depending on the weather and time of day. He likes it enough to not want to leave after 30minutes, and it tires him out, builds coordination, gives him a healthy dose of interaction, etc. Also causes me minor panic attacks. Usually the joint’s overrun with kids, the way it oughtta be, and a packed airspace of “Helicopter Parents.” They act as labeled – hovering within feet of their kid’s activity, constantly voice-guiding their child like a sonar ping. “Aiden! Don’t hang on the lighthouse parapet. Aiden! Not YOU, sorry, AIDEN MAXIMUS… NO, NOT YOU, GAAAH! Maddie go get your br… sorry, MadeLINE, go get your brother.” Even better when one kid has 2 parents and a grandparent hovering around, 1 directing while 1 captures burgeoning narcissism and the other documents flowering misanthropy on smartphone cameras.
The worst of the Heli-parents are the Heli-Sippers. Fresh into the play area with knee-high kids running around, what better way to enjoy it than with a steaming-hot, freshly made latte in-hand? Oh, even better, stare at your phone amidst the cacophony of Figure-8 Racing that is a toddler’s play area!
Next-worse are the asshole parents of the asshole kids stuck along the perimeter, phone-thumbing their way through social media while IN A COMPLETELY CROWDED PUBLIC SPACE. Their kid is the one on top of the foam boat, purposely but passively giving kids the kick-back while screaming “I am the CHAM-PEE-ONNN!” Actually, Cade-aid-maximaden, you are 9 years old and need to get your ass off the boat before I engineer a slip-off. It’s always a boy, he’s usually got red hair or a big head, and his parents haven’t had him tested to see which chromosome caused the 11th-14th toes.
Nobody ever says anything. Ever. I am beginning to. I’ve told kids who push other kids “You’re not a very nice little boy, are you?” They don’t like that. Or “You shouldn’t push kids, or they will push you.” Huh, what? Responsibility? Accountability what? My son doesn’t touch other kids, but he is telling them now “It’s MY turn” and they move and he says “Thank you” and then won’t go down the F’ing slide and I look like my kid’s scared of everything.
I’m not perfect, soooo far from-far-from perfect. But I am trying to teach my oldest to stay out of other kid’s faces, no pushing, and to verbalize what he’s feeling. Ain’t easy. Eventually a kid from another country will not like his tone and knock him down. Then that kid’s dad will get thrown in a garbage can. StealthFighterDad among Helicopter Parents. I will drill you from high above in the play area. Then I will sanitize my hands with foamitizer and get a cupcake. Because America.
Be present. Say something. Parent, as a verb.