Today was a Ferris Day, as in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was a chores be damned, the dusting and laundry can wait, we’re getting the kids outside and we’re wearing t-shirts too, kind of day. My son and I were no exception, hot-footing it to our local park as soon as we could get there to join the throngs of stay-at-home moms shedding the worst of winter’s cabin fever for a glimpse at a summer not all that far off.
There are three types of moms who frequent local parks. The first are the hands-off types who spend most of their time on their phones while their kids play. For them the park is a break from parenting, with the exception of the casual glance upward at regularly scheduled intervals. The second type of mom who frequents the park comes with friends. Instead of staring at her phone she’s wildly, frenetically conversing with a fellow mother in staccato sentences more commonly known as mom-speak: “Did you see Scandal last night—Billy, don’t touch that!—can you believe that was like, totally—I said no! Get off that slide!—Anyway I’m thinking of going to kickboxing…” The third type of mom follows her toddler around like a paranoid wreck, usually because her child has just learned how to walk and has yet to get his first serious bruise or scrape.
Then, there’s me. I’m the mom who says hello, encourages my son to play with your kid if she shows an interest, and leaves her phone in the car so we aren’t disturbed. Worse yet, I’m the mom who crawls under the equipment with her son to help him pretend he’s in a fort. Still, worse than that I’m the mom who brings out the bubble wand to the joy and delight of every single one of the 5 billion children in the park. And yes, I’m the mom who lets her kid walk up the slide and down the steps.
In other words, I break all the established, unspoken rules of mom behavior at the playground. I don’t even wear yoga pants. I wear jeans and shove a sippy cup in my back pocket, because who wants to be encumbered by a baby bag, let alone a stroller?
Much like every other parenting decision I’ve made, I never gave much thought to my playground behavior until today when my Ferris-like attitude obviously aggravated at least three mothers at the toddler slide. It was really kind of funny. There they were, these poor mothers hauling massive baby totes over their shoulders, attempting to teach their toddlers proper slide etiquette. “Walk UP the steps and go DOWN the slide. I said DOWN THE SLIDE, NOT UP!”
Meanwhile, there I was rooting my son on as he figured out how to climb up the slide and walk down the steps, a rather huge first-time accomplishment for him. Little did I know encouraging him to follow his instincts, explore, and act on his curiosity would inspire three successive temper-tantrums from other children close to his age who, for some reason, weren’t allowed to climb up a slide.
As their mothers shot me dirty looks I leaned over to my little climber and said, “You know, I always liked climbing up the slide, too.”
To her credit, one mother did chuckle at my son’s exuberance upon reaching the top platform. In fact, now that I think about it, my son was the only one cheering, shouting, smiling, and expressing actual joy at being there. One mom even said, “Wow, he’s so happy!”
Your kid can be, too, I thought as I watched her son light up at my own child’s screams of joy. Just let him have a freaking day off.