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.

Does It Mean a Thang If You Ain’t Got That Ring?

After years of riding that roller coaster of love, I’ve arrived at a new place: The future.
Sure, the last go around included a discussion of moving in together, possibly having a child together, but it was all contingent upon the completion of a year apart. All those things were far away in some distant plan I couldn’t yet visualize, and I really only had a matter of weeks to mull them over before the ideas were eviscerated. (See previous posts)
I didn’t think I would ever love someone in a meaningful way ever again, so I really hadn’t revisited my own feelings about marriage, children or “family.” I pretty much had the love of the only male who would ever matter to me forever, so what was there to think about?

slob

Single life can be so fulfilling

Now I’m stuck in the present– a deep well of emotional uncertainty. Sure it’s cool, comfortable, and giving me life, but it’s a limited view of the world around me. I don’t know how deep this goes, if these feelings will ever run out, what the “light” outside the tunnel is to me.
Worst of all, I’m a bit afraid to think about any of that for fear I’ll be disappointed.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve chosen to spend my time focused on the great things I possess rather than mull over the things I don’t. Sure, I thought I’d have a better job and be more financially stable by now. I expected to remain married until death, and a child, which I now have and adore, had never really been “in the picture” because of prior struggles in my life.
However, I am healthier than I’ve ever been. My son is brilliant, and makes me proud every day. I have tons of artistic, loving, intelligent and impressive friends whom I enjoy. I feel as though I spend my time with the people I love doing the things I love.

ladies

Cupcake Church 4 LIFE!

And then, of course, there’s my love.
Yes, I can choke the word out now. After weeks of struggling to accept the vulnerability that it drags along with it, I revel in knowing the love I have for this man I have the pleasure of calling “mine” is requited.
I feel it’s warmth radiate from his heavenly body when he pulls me into him. I see it fold into tiny stars that line his eyes as he smiles. Most importantly, I feel it when he goes above his own comfort level to make me happy. People tell you all the time, “I just want YOU to be happy,” but he doesn’t just say it. He makes it happen.
He knows I like to take photographs, so he suggests we go to some of the most beautiful places around to capture them. Together. He knows I like the charm of a street fair with local vendors, so he plans a trip to the farmer’s market. Together. He knows my son is the most important being on this planet to me, so he suggests kid-friendly activities for us to do… together.
When I wake up with irrational nightmares of his absence; fears of him leaving us behind like everyone else, the sound of his heartbeat as he holds me to his chest is my deafening mantra of comfort.
I know for a fact, I’m happy. I love him, and I want nothing more than to be with him. He’s genuine, kind, benevolent. While I’ll always want him, I’m finding I need him more each day.

happy

Luckiest woman evah.

With that intimacy comes questions, though. (What I surprise, Malinda has to question everything)
Mr. Pahhh rasss has made it abundantly clear, he doesn’t want to get married. He doesn’t want to have children.
Ever.
He literally just wants to keep floating through this life, enjoying it as it comes at him. I can’t blame him. It’s a beautiful thing, life is, and we never really control it, so what’s the point in trying.
But what does that mean for “us?”
He’s made a very important promise to me… that he won’t leave until I tell him to go. That he will never stray to another, and I’m starting to believe that with our histories of unfaithful spouses, hurtful divorces and heartbreak, he’s telling the truth.
That goes for the no marriage and kids thing, too, though. I believe he knows what he doesn’t want, and I would never try to change his mind.
I just don’t really know if I mind.
Marriage is great. I’m a huge fan of it. What’s better than a celebration of and dedication to love? (Money, sex, chocolate, whiskey… okay, there are a few things) As much as I love the idea of marriage and I try to share in the excitement surrounding matrimony, I could be happy with someone for the rest of my life even if they didn’t want to sign that contract.
I understand that after divorcing once, some people aren’t exactly eager to get back into that tux and slap a ring on someone’s finger. Divorces are tough on the heart and soul, and sometimes the pocketbook. I grappled with the idea of being 25 and divorced for some time. I felt like a quitter; I felt like I had betrayed my own supreme ideals.
Now, I’m just like, “Meh.”
Getting divorced was the best decision I ever made. I’m no so scared of it I would never agree to marry again, but I’m not exactly dying for a diamond. Having a companion is the best part of marriage, and as long as I could have a companion I love to be with, I’m good.
Babies, on the other hand… sigh.
Again, I never really thought I’d have another child, multiple times in my life. After Cullen, I did vow never to have a baby unless I had a solid foundation with the other potential parent, but that was about it.
My second life love had expressed a desire to procreate, rather unexpectedly, and, rather unexpectedly, I was quite responsive to the idea. He was a great father to his daughter and really treated my son well.
I wanted Cullen to have a sibling so he could avoid being a spoiled, self-centered only child. Plus, there’s few things better in the world than the bond between sisters and brothers. He’s so imaginative and active it would be good for him (and me) to have another child to run and gun with.
Also, I feel like I was robbed, somewhat, of the traditional experience of bringing a child in to the world. You know, the images of a man and woman lying in bed with all four of their hands touching her mountain of a belly erupting from the sheets. Days spent painting walls and assembling beds and nights filled with singing songs to that same mountain. The two peering into each others eyes as the purple oatmeal-covered being is finally placed into their arms.
Yeah, I didn’t have that.
I should’ve just fastened a pair of boxing gloves to my hands for nine months since I spent the entire time bobbing and weaving through 40 rounds of knock-down drag-out fights. It would’ve been nice to have that “picture-perfect” pregnancy experience… but I didn’t.
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about couples choosing not to have kids, and one thing they always nail is the concept that this “family fantasy” is really nothing more than a societal norm. It’s what we’ve all been programmed to believe is the path to the end goal of “happiness.” That doesn’t make it right, and it certainly doesn’t make it right for everyone.
So is it right for me?
Some part of me desperately wants to have another baby. It’s exciting, and emotional and, honestly, indescribable. On the other hand, I find myself wondering if I should’ve had a baby at all.
I think about how free I would be to pursue all the adventures I love so much. I get a bit resentful of the fact that more and more people have “child-free” policies at barbecues and parties, not because I find their choices offensive, but because it makes it fucking difficult for me to find babysitters. (Honestly, it would be better for this “us v. them” battle between the childless and child-having to just relax a bit. Let’s just accept each other and move on). I get frustrated asking, “Is this movie appropriate to show a child?” “Will he be still and quiet to enough for that place?” “Is it wrong to go to this activity and leave a child behind?”

cartman

… except anything that an irresponsible adult would do.

Now that I’ve made so many changes in my life, my realm of desire has just exploded, too. I live a substance-free existence. I work out. I want to go back to school and get a new job. But I barely have enough time to manage all that with a 3-year-old as it is. He’s just now old enough that he can stay with grandma and grandpa much easier for longer periods of time without many problems.
Honestly, I’m enjoying the marginal freedom I have. Do I really want to start over again with a demanding, fragile newborn?
Let me sigh even harder… SIIIIIGHHHHHHHHHH.
I’m not 21 anymore. The time I have left to make mistakes and dick around is ticking away, and I still have no fucking idea what it is I want from what little I have left. On one hand, I’m a little scared and upset that I’ve been denied an option for the future against my will… That if I stay with this man I adore I will be forced to remove several other possibilities — whether they are or aren’t societal norms — from the agenda. I really don’t like being told what I can’t do. But the more I think about it, the more I understand why we get along so well: We both seem to really enjoy living in a chaotic good world.
I have no idea what I want, because I don’t spend much time thinking about it. I really spend much, if not all my time, focusing on what’s happening right now or in the immediate future (by that I mean, “What’s going on this weekend?”)
How is it possible to be such a control freak and spend your life just going with the flow? Is it possible for me to just take this love as it’s given with no consideration for where it’s going? “Planning for the future” is one of those things society tells us we “have” to do, too, but why? Why does it have to go anywhere? Because I’m almost 30? Because planning something somehow will protect me from being hurt?
My father always says, “If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail.” I really don’t think love and companionship can be set to an agenda or verified with an image of what it’s “supposed” to look like. But I also don’t want to wake up five years from now feeling like I’ve failed my heart, again. The only thing I know for sure is that I love this man. I’m honored he’s chosen me to be his partner, and I believe he wants to keep it that way because I make him happy. Shouldn’t that be enough?

He’s Lovin’ It; I’m Lovin’ It

Whether it’s an ex, another helping of pasta salad or a third or fourth glass of wine, everyone knowingly indulges in self-destructive behavior.

mcdonalds

McDonald’s, once viewed as a harmless treat every now-and-again, has become one of the more reprehensible acts of self-destruction in the modern world we can’t seem to quit. We all know the “food” is really just calories wrapped in preservatives, coloring and mysterious fillers. We know it has little to no nutritional value and hell, it might even give us cancer, but they keep popping up in gas stations and mega Wal Marts across the country.

And we keep lining up to pay poverty prices for the most scrumptious, salty sin imaginable.

I often ask myself “How does McDonald’s stay in business, seriously?” Ever since Supersize Me, how could any self-respecting human being pay money to shove 650 calories known as a Quarter Pounder (or Royale with cheese, depending on your pop-culture health) down their gullet?

At least cigarette smokers can blame their destructive habits on addiction-inducing chemicals in the tobacco.

So, naturally, the parent in me vows to steer my youngster away from the tasty allure of probably the best french fries on the planet (or freedom fries, depending on how much you hate Democrats). That is, until my last visit this weekend.

I was driving to the grocery store for a quick item Sunday, and my almost-three-year-old was quietly riding in the backseat. We drove past McDonald’s, and he exclaimed, “I, I need somethin’ eat.”

It was 12:45 p.m., and he really didn’t eat much of anything for breakfast (just call me Mom of the Year), so I figured a quick snack was in order. I asked him what he wanted, and he just pointed out the window saying, “That!”

“You want to eat McDonald’s?”

“YEEEEAAAAH! ‘Donald’s!”

The joy, the elation seeped through those two words like special sauce between a sesame seed bun and a hamburger-ish patty. It was sweeter than anything I’d ever heard come from Cullen’s venom-spitting mouth.

He really wanted to go to McDonald’s.

As I moved into the right lane to head for our new destination, I started another journey down memory lane. I recalled afternoon lunches with my mother, sometimes accompanied by an aunt, cousin or my grandmother.

I remembered long road trips with my siblings, during which my father would stop and buy a bag of cheeseburgers to nosh with our ice-chest filled with sides and drinks. Birthday parties (why doesn’t anyone do THAT anymore?), outdated playground equipment, paper ketchup cups, Ronald freakin’ McDonald, chicken nuggets with sweet-and-sour sauce that have tasted the exact same for two decades now. One McDonald’s in the town where I lived in Canada had a massive ball pit and play area filled with tree tunnels and a carousel in the basement.

And now, I could thank McDonald’s for that sugary-sweet squeal I just heard from my own son in the backseat. I could thank McDonald’s for the smile to end all smiles when he realized a Mario Kart toy was in his immediate future. I could also thank McDonald’s for yet another dimple in my thigh, but whatever.

This is why people continue buying and consuming the crap they sell… it’s a collective experience of joy. The food is manufactured to taste good, better than anything real could ever taste, so it’s only natural for warm, fuzzy feelings to reverberate in our minds every time we see the golden arches. If you happened to spend quality time there with your mom, or aunt or grandma while eating salt-covered sin, those fuzzies are sure to be amplified.

Parents are supposed to watch out for their kids, to guide them into making better life choices than we once did, but it’s also our job to sacrifice personal comfort for their own. So, I’ll continue paying $6.41 for atomic sludge and say 15 hail Marys afterward if it means my son can have more squeals of elation and memories of his mother eating the exact same chicken nuggets she did 20 years ago.