Parents: Stop Taking Your Kids to the Park

I’m really getting tired of seeing kids at the park.

I promise I don’t hate children (all the time), so perhaps I should re-phrase.

I’m really getting tired of seeing kids ALONE at the park. Wait, wait… still not right. I pride myself on being one of the few mothers in this fear-infected society who refuses to believe kids can’t go to the park by themselves. One more time:

I’m really tired of seeing lonely children at the park.

I’m tired of being asked to push other people’s 4-year-olds on the swings. I’m tired of being asked for money from random youngsters when the ice-cream truck drives by. I’m tired of bringing extra toys on excursions so everyone can be included when they see us having fun. I’m tired of seeing the pain in my son’s eyes when he realizes that, yet again, he has to share his “mom-time” with a stranger.

I promise I don’t hate children. I’m starting to hate parents who just take their kids to the park simply to be ignored.

Parenting is hard. There are no easy answers, lots of tears, fears, frustrations, regrets, and worst of all, judgement. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to judge my struggle through this gauntlet of motherhood, so I fervently try to avoid my Librian instincts in this area.

You can be sure, however, that when I’m at the park playing with your child while you text and scroll on your phone… in your car… 20 feet away… for an hour… I’m fucking judging you.

For the past three years, my son and I have taken countless trips to the park. Toddlers have this thing for being insane when they don’t play. I have literally watched him climb on a stool and jump from it about 35 times in a row. There was no “game” or objective. He just wanted to climb and jump. Nonstop. Period.

I feel a little bit guilty sometimes that he doesn’t get to have all my attention, not because I want him growing up a pompous, spoiled brat, but because that is all he wants. He doesn’t really care about brand name clothes (yet) or new toys (eehhh to some degree) or seeing the newest movie in theaters.

He wants me. I am his world, and he wants to be in it all the time. He wants me to race, and jump and climb and play with him. Nonstop. Period.

So do all the other children I find milling about on park playgrounds as their mothers and fathers disappear into screen land. Most of the time, all they want is attention from the adults in their lives. From the looks of it, they aren’t getting any.

I took Cullen to the park this weekend around 9 a.m., ya know, before the fires of Hell completely erupted onto the Oklahoma prairie. There was one car in the parking lot and one child seated at the base of a slide, literally staring blankly and dangling his legs over the already-warmed landscape. He had mentally cast his line out onto the wood chips and was just watching the bobber. Waiting for a catch.

This young man, probably around seven, became our best friend from the moment we disrupted his ennui. We tossed a ball up and down slides, pretended to “have lunch” at the playground’s cafe (one of Cullen’s favorites), wiggled through tunnels, drove a pirate ship and made ourselves dizzy in the tire swing. He told me about his upcoming trip to his dad’s house and his school.

All as his mother watched from her SUV, occasionally shouting time warnings from a cracked window.

Even though the exuberance of these two boys was breezy and invigorating, I was hot. Sure it was 90 degrees out, but I my blood was boiling. Didn’t this woman know my son and I had a special morning planned for just the two of us? Was she okay with her son playing with a complete stranger? Wasn’t she ashamed that this stranger was being a much better park entertainer than she? Why did she even bring him here if she wasn’t even going to get out of the fucking car?

This wasn’t the first time this had happened, either. I’ve found myself caring for kids of all ages at different times with similar circumstances.

My self-righteous fire subsided when this young man offered to share his water with me and my son. I saw the absolute pleasure in his face as he ran back to his mother’s SUV to regale her with stories about the rapid-fire adventures we’d had on an uneventful Saturday morning. I realized this young man had set aside his “big boy” attitude many have toward toddlers (no big kids want to be bothered by babies) in order to feel like he was part of the fun. What a great example for my son to follow in the future.

I also thought about the example I’d set for my own child and realized the lesson he’d learned was far more important than him having every turn on the swings: Sometimes we have to put others above ourselves because it’s the right thing to do for everyone, not just the self.

There’s a lot of truth to the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and I understand more and more that every adult can play a positive role in every child’s life– parent or not. If we understood that, as a whole, we are improved by taking on our fair share of the work, perhaps we wouldn’t be so fragmented and individualistic.

It just gets hard to pick up the slack for those who don’t seem to make an effort at all… who have absolutely no interest in raising the standard for us all through small acts of giving. A little piece of the light dies each time a giver feels taken advantage of, and that fire of self-righteousness grows. I know it’s best to take one for the team. I know it’s really “for the keeeeeds,” because it’s not their fault their parents would rather play fantasy football or watch Netflix than take a stab at the monkey bars (and later wonder why their child doesn’t respect them enough).

I admit it: I judged that woman on her cell phone, and I will probably judge the next one.

Next time, though, I’ll just remind myself that by showing a little more love to everyone and sharing a little more attention with those that aren’t “mine,” I’m investing in a brighter future for us all. It doesn’t really matter who does the work, as long as the task is accomplished. There’s no point in punishing the innocent.

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I paid 97 cents for my creativity

If you know me well, you probably know I’m not a huge fan of greeting cards. Now, if you give one to me, I’m not going to rip it up and toss it into my non-existent furnace. I do cherish some I’ve received over the years, but I don’t buy them… ever.
Most of the time, we all know why we are all gathered around to celebrate. You don’t need a card from me to remind you that I was at your house because it was your birthday, or that I’m glad it was your birthday, or that I think you’re great. If I’m there, you know I already believe all those things.

Totally worth $5

Totally worth $5


They don’t say anything truly personal, which is what people really cherish, and they’re a waste of paper. Paper money and paper for art, or novels, or scribbled grocery lists. And I like the fact that trees turn our trash into treasure, literally, so we can breathe and all.
Hello, environmental terrorist.

Hello, environmental terrorist.


So, imagine my shock when I came across these new “decorate-your-own” Hallmark cards and started filling my cart with a few. Admit it, they’re pretty cute, and they were only $0.97 each.
If this is what it looked like, yeah I'd buy it, but similar to these

If this is what it looked like, yeah I’d buy it, but similar to these


I was also on a budget, so the cute cards didn’t make the final cut. I could totally make them myself with some card stock and a thick Sharpie.
However, after further contemplation, I’m glad I didn’t buy them. Those cute ass cards represent one of many things I believe are wrong with our collective consciousness.
hopeless comsume
First, those hand-print “magic” cards for mothers and fathers day, now these? What happened to fucking paint? and glitter? and stickers? Was there a collective burning of art supplies and I just didn’t hear about it (Creepily, I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that happened).
Zer shalz be no aahhtz!

Zer shalz be no aahhtz!


I am thrilled there appears to be a strong desire for people to make their own personalized gifts, cards, etc. but how truly “personal” are products like these? Personal enough to sell, and that’s all that matters.
We are so trapped in our capitalist birdcage we believe we can really just buy our way out and break free. (Notice I didn’t say “prison,” because you can actually buy your way out of there.)

And that includes “being creative.” Yes, we sometimes need to buy supplies to make a personalized gift or an ode to a Ozymandias, but these products imply that one simply needs to buy this product to “be creative.”

Consume, repeat, obey.

Consume, repeat, obey.


If the most thoughtful and creative gifts are really the ones plucked from a kiosk at Wal Mart, then why is it the things we usually love most come from the attic or the side of the road? It’s because they have character; A story. Maybe it belonged to your grandmother, or has a unique historical marking branded on it. Perhaps it’s the fact that someone made it carefully, tediously with the supplies they had, not what they bought at Wal Mart.
Great things are rarely easy

Great things are rarely easy

So, here’s my step-by-step solution to this, “personalize a card” dilemma:
1. fold a fucking piece of paper in half.
2. draw a design on one half.
3. color, paint, stencil, burn, stamp, or razor as desired.

This mommy would rather have these

This mommy would rather have these


If you’re feeling really daring, tear the blank half of the paper off and let the picture speak for itself; Unless you plan to write the recipient a real message or letter on the inside.

And if you feel like proving me wrong on this greeting card thing, I’d gladly cherish one of these

The recycled paper has seedlings inside that grow!

The recycled paper has seedlings inside that grow!

Hallmark, I am totally available for hire, for the right price of course (see above post), especially if you’re considering releasing a provocative line of cards with curse words and nonsense song lyrics included in the “personal” messages.

I would actually pay for this card

I would actually pay for this card

But the point isn’t about greeting cards. It’s about greetings. If you want to send someone a personal way to tell them “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m glad you were born,” you don’t have to keep your creativity confined to your wallet. You don’t have to buy more stuff to make someone feel special, and your own mind is never limited by a price tag. We’re already buying our way into disaster, so break the cycle. Break out the paper and pens and really let people know how they inspire you. They likely deserve better than Wal Mart anyway.

Pictures do speak a thousand words, but words reflect your thoughts.

Pictures do speak a thousand words, but words reflect your thoughts.

Plenty of herrings

We live our lives online, and some even live a Second life online. So it’s no surprise that one prominent online dating website claims one in five relationships now begin on the Internet. I first began perusing the pages of Plenty of Fish a while back as a joke; just as something a friend told me was attracting the attention of crazy, backwards “ladies.” I signed up wanting to just laugh at the silly sites, which is how I met Chris. I didn’t expect to fall in love.
That’s over now, but the emails haven’t stopped, and I’ve finally got what I came for. Once you read one or two it becomes an addiction. It’s like a feeding frenzy has started, and I’m ecstatic every time I come across a new profile that makes me say, “what? You did not put that on you profile!”
So, here are a few gems I’ve come across in past weeks that have made me say, “Seriously?”:
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Infinitely regret that mustache.

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Furries wanted.

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Narcissistic much?

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Two in one profile? Double narcissism.

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Totally hot, if you’re into ventriloquist dummies.

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Aaaaand an all midget Kiss cover band.

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Interests for this good, Christian pot head? “living.” Sorry mom. Hopefully it will be between me and my lady, oh and the entire Internet.

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This guy looks like loads of fun.

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There must be a lot of beanies in this guy’s closet… And beach bag apparently.

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And what’s up with the unzipped hooded sweatshirts?

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Narcissism in a furry hat.

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When trying to pick up chicks online, don’t post a bunch of pictures of you and your boyfriend on your profile.

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or a picture of your life peaking when you met the Jamaican beer dude…

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or doing this.

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How to make a Prince Charming: Part Crown, part tequila, two cigarettes, and a dash of lime.

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The fish isn’t even worth photographing. Narcissism?

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aaah, pure, unbridled narcissism.

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And when you don’t have a good photo of yourself, Dwight Schrute playing pool is a good default pic.

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Interests: “tattoos, music, having a day off. Oh, yeah, and murder.”

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My panties spontaneously flew off the second my eyes witnessed all this awesomeness. It’s like they’re living in a Fresh Prince video!

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You’re a man seeking a woman?

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When grandma is having herself immortalized by a computerized pencil sketch artist, she always wears her best polo shirt.

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She’s real to the bone. she works night shift job.

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Okay, technically this isn’t a dating profile pic, but it’s still supposed to be enticing. and what’s more enticing than a tribal, tramp stamp on a guy’s abdomen?

20130123-225957.jpg Answer: puka beads and a knitted-by-granny heart pillow to cover your junk.

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Approximately 67 percent of your profile pics are related to a basketball team. And the primary photo is a meme. Deep.

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Don’t worry; he won’t stalk you unless he really likes you.

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“If something develops and it’s mutual, that would be nice if not, that’s okay” Actually, that’s considered a felony, even if the woman is obese.

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in the end, who really needs online dating sites when you can just look on Craigslist for venom removal specials?

A gem from Christmas past…

“The Constitution says your right to privacy is only protected in situations where one has a reasonable expectation of privacy. It’s a well known fact that Santa is watching us all the time.”
 
 
Most Southwest Oklahomans would never tolerate finding a bearded stranger in the middle of the living room late at night rummaging through a sack of valuables. A hasty call to the police would ensue or, in the home of the Make My Day law, a firearm might even surface.
 Just last week, a woman in Comanche County called sheriff’s deputies after she found a woman in her home without permission. The visitor said she dropping off a Christmas present, but the homeowner promptly ordered her out and called law enforcement.
 So how has Santa managed to escape prosecution for so long? Are we so drawn in by the prospect of receiving presents that we don’t even question whether Santa is nothing more than a hardened, or rather a softbellied, criminal? The guy dresses like a gang member; he’s perfected the art of slipping in and out of a home undetected and operates under multiple aliases — “Saint Nick” and “Kris Kringle,” to name a few — and he essentially bribes people into being “nice.” But everybody loves the guy, aside from a few teary toddlers at the mall.
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Maybe those teary kids aren’t being naughty; maybe they have an extrasensory perception that Santa is, in fact, a lawbreaker. After a little research and consultation, it appears as though Mr. Claus could be jailed, ticketed, sued or even thrown in federal prison for anything from trespassing to illegal possession of exotic animals for his yearly rounds.

 The way Comanche County Assistant District Attorney Mark Stoneman sees it, the milk and cookies are Santa’s “get out of jail free” card. By putting out the plate of sugary goodness, Stoneman said, residents make it hard for prosecutors to establish “mens rea,” or Claus’ criminal intent.
 “Those cookies would lead Santa to believe he was welcome in the home,” Stoneman said. To arrest him for breaking and entering after he was invited in could be entrapment.

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Basically, an intruder must know that he is not authorized to be inside a place for him to be guilty of a crime. So if there are no cookies, is Santa committing a burglary? Burglars have to break and enter into a structure or vehicle with the intent of committing a crime. Most thieves are prosecuted for entering with the intent to commit a larceny, or take goods away from the property, but leaving valuables at the home isn’t a felony. It isn’t even a crime, as long as the gifts aren’t illegal or able to be construed as harassing or violations of public decency.
 

 So then it would just be breaking and entering, right? Not quite.
“To break and enter, you have to actually open a door or window; a chimney is just a hole in the top of a house,” Stoneman said. The law doesn’t specifically state anything about whether a flue constitutes a door or window.
  Before any potential perpetrators start trying to shimmy down the stack, be r e m i n d e d that countless criminals are r e s c u e d each month across the country after they find themselves stuck in a chimney.
  Oklahoma law does state that any person “under circumstances not amounting to any burglary” who enters any structure with the intent to commit malicious mischief is guilty of a misdemeanor. The statute does not say that decorating a Christmas tree without consent or filling socks with treats and toys constitutes malicious mischief.
  “I suppose if someone didn’t want Santa there or didn’t know he was going to be in the house, they could file trespassing charges,” Stoneman said.

 Santa wouldn’t likely be required to appear in court or post a bond for a trespassing or breaking and entering complaint, but he might want to hire a lawyer. Defense attorney Kenny Rhoads said he would gladly take Santa as a client — for a small retainer fee.
 Rhoads said if the benevolent gift-giver found himself facing charges, he would craft a twofold defense. First, he said, he would ask for an in-person line-up, complete with costumes.
 “There are literally thousands of people who share characteristics with my client, especially at this time of year. How would they know they got the right guy?” Rhoads said. “I’d love to see 1,000 Santas at the Coliseum. Good luck pinpointing which suspect is the real perpetrator. I’ve heard the same ‘ho, ho, ho’ thousands of times and it all sounds the same to me.”

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Second, Rhoads said, he would ask for a competency evaluation.
 “We’re talking about a guy who claims he’s capable of motorless flight, can teleport or bend the rules of time, and has a constantly jovial demeanor, which is contrary to most people. I think there’s definitely some sanity concerns,” Rhoads said. “Or ‘Santa’-ty concerns.”
 Nevertheless, Lawton police say they would never arrest the real Santa, and Stoneman said the DA’s office would never prosecute the big guy for fear of winding up on the naughty list. Plus, tying him up with legal proceedings might prevent him from making his deliveries on time. If the “crime” were discovered after Santa was gone from Comanche County, extraditing a suspect from the North Pole might prove to be impossible.
 “Also, I would be ethically obligated to disclose every gift I’d ever received if I had to consider filing charges,” Stoneman said.
 It isn’t just entering millions of homes in the dead of night that should raise eyebrows. Claus better have proper licenses if he wants to bring his reindeer to Lawton homes.
 Animal Welfare Supervisor Rose Wilson said it would be legal to keep and raise deer because they are indigenous wildlife, but Santa must have a state license to do so. The deer would have to be current on all their vaccinations and adhere to the state health department’s regulations regarding livestock.
 Rudolph, however, would be an exotic animal, which are illegal to possess. When was the last time you saw a group of red-nosed reindeer grazing the fields of Southwest Oklahoma?
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 Plus, eight reindeer kept as pets would surpass the three-pets-per-household limit for Lawton residents, unless Santa had a special license.
 
 
 Speaking of licenses, Lawton Municipal Airport Manager Barbara McNally said the Federal Aviation Agency should have a pilot’s license on file for Santa Claus; otherwise he would be illegally flying his sleigh, which is also subject to inspection. While Santa’s bowl full of jelly and spectacles are part of his charm, Mc-Nally said, if Santa cannot pass a yearly physical exam his license would be suspended.
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 Even with the proper licenses, landing a sleigh on the housetop is definitely a violation of FAA regulations. McNally explained that craft flying over populated areas must maintain a minimum altitude of 500 feet. Any lower and a pilot could be fined.
 “If a complaint is filed and the FAA follows up on it, the aircraft would likely be tracked with a tail number. I bet Santa’s sleigh doesn’t have a tail number,” McNally said, so it would be difficult, if not impossible, to hold him accountable for the infraction.
 As far as restricted airspace, McNally said Santa has been in the business of delivering toys for so long he probably is well aware of the areas he can and cannot fly.
 Violations of air-space rules could constitute federal offenses, but McNally said that without a slew of cases of bad pilots on the books, she couldn’t say exactly what punishment Santa might face.
 
It may not be surprising that Santa has not been arrested, but it’s downright amazing nobody has sued Mr. Claus.
 Lawton Municipal Court Judge Nathan Johnson said manufacturing of toys at the North Pole could violate patent and trademark laws because the products usually have the brand name stamped right on them. Recently news outlets have covered cases brought in international courts by Apple that have resulted in orders for companies to cease the sale and distribution of similar products.
 “If Santa is making smartphones, he better not make them too much like the iPhone,” Johnson said.
 Unless Santa has contracts with every company in the world making him a licensed manufacturer and distributor of their product, a court could easily rule against him, even if the products aren’t being sold. Essentially, the meeting of the minds between children promising Santa they will be good all year and leaving him milk and cookies in exchange for the gifts is the equivalent of Santa receiving something in return for the goods.
 “Well, if that’s the case, what if you were nice all year and Santa doesn’t bring you what you ask for? Would you then have a civil claim against Santa Claus for breach of agreement?” Johnson asked.
 Since Santa’s workshop is where the toys are made, if someone injures himself or herself with a defective or dangerous toy, Johnson said Santa could face a product liability suit as well. But with what court would one file such a claim? Normally, claims are filed with the court that has jurisdiction where the incident occurs, but what court has jurisdiction over the North Pole?
 Johnson said a claim could be filed in the appropriate U.S. federal district if Santa had minimal contacts with the people within that district. If Santa advertises his services in Comanche County or accepts letters from residents here, he most definitely could be sued for faulty products here if they were manufactured elsewhere.
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 The list of possible infractions could continue on and on, branching into immigration questions about crossing borders without identification, homeland security issues regarding customs claims or searches of the sleigh, or even constitutional rights to privacy. How can Santa keep files on every boy and girl’s behavior without violating their rights to privacy?
 “The Constitution says your right to privacy is only protected in situations where one has a reasonable expectation of privacy,” Stoneman said. “It’s a wellknown fact that Santa is watching us all the time.”
 Perhaps the biggest question remaining is how has he been able to escape any legal hang-ups for so long? Nobody wants to be the one who stops the flow of presents. Nobody wants to end up on the naughty list. Nobody wants to be the one that turns on “Old Saint Nick.” So does that make us all accessories or conspirators?
 
According to Stoneman, it may not even be possible to bring Santa into court because his status as a diplomat from the North Pole makes him immune from criminal or civil litigation.
 I, too, have a fear of the naughty list and am not advocating we wage a legal battle on Santa Claus. I think it’d be safe to say the joy and cheer that can be traced back to Santa would make throwing him in jail the real crime.
 So until then, we’ll just keep turning a blind eye to the happiest crime spree in the world, if it means millions of little smiles on Christmas morning.