Playground Etiquette

fighting over toys Archives - SPARE THE KIDS

Another humorous post by Tejal Toprani Misra who is a psychotherapist in part-time private practice and a most-time stay at home mom. She lives in California with her spouse and two young sons.

Playground etiquette … What is that anyway? I wish there was an “Ask Tejal” column on this topic. There’s a lot I could say.

What’s that? You’d like to know what I have to say? OK, I think I’ll just go ahead and say it:

So last month my boys, ages 2 and 5 had “spring break.” Not the “let’s go the beach and somebody hand me a Piña Colada” kind of a spring break – but the kind where I have to entertain two kids in a pandemic while my husband works the whole ten days kind of spring break. At some point the three of us forgot what my husband looked like. But I digress. 

For some reason, I decided to graduate myself to taking two kids to a public park. I wanted to see if I had any zone defense skills. Spoiler Alert: I don’t have any. This may be shocking to some readers but I have never taken them both “out” on my own. When our youngest was 15 months old and I was finally getting my “two kid mom wings” a pandemic hit and local parks had SVU caution tape around them. DUN DUN. I put my training wheels back on, my wings aside, and waited things out. Now one year later I put on the Rocky music and said “I can do this.” 

In order to control some of the elements as well as my own anxiety, I got there early, brought snacks, prepared for bathroom trips and brought a ball. A ball. Yes, one shareable item. 

The golden rule of park etiquette according to me is:

  1. If you as a parent allow your child to bring toy(s) to the park then you have to be able to handle the fact that those toys may want to be shared by other small park patrons. 

Let me explain how I created this rule. Over the 10 day “spring break” (but who’s counting?) when I decided to take my two children to the park, I saw a dad with a 4-year-old. And when I say he was “with” a four-year-old, I mean “with” figuratively. He was more letting his child play with 7 large dump trucks he had brought from their home while his head was down in a tiktok rabbit hole. 

My 2- and 5-year-old were immediately interested in the truck-a-palooza. And since the park is a shared space, they assumed these items were shareable as well. I asked Tiktok dad if he was okay with sharing and he nodded in the affirmative. His 4 year-old seemed to be okay with it too. And for about 120 seconds everyone was in harmony. That is, until the 4 year-old started to feel some type of way about his toys being played with by others. Remember, he brought them from home, to a public park, in a pandemic, where other children were desperate to see new faces and new play things… My 5 year-old understood. He moved on and other park friend parents sweetly offered their less coveted toys like buckets and shovels. 

Tiktok Dad took this as “problem solved” and resumed his phone activity. 

My 2 year-old, however, was not having it. 

How could he grasp that these toys, the ones brought to the public park, that he was just playing with, were now off limits? Well, he couldn’t. So, this led to a full scale tantrum. The kind where I am physically dragging him from the dump trucks and he’s trying to jump out of my arms. I tried all the things – which for me means distracting and bribing – and none of that worked. My two-year-old ran back to the dump trucks and grabbed one and ran away. The 4-year-old owner of the dump trucks became upset, and when I brought the truck back to the four-year-old a minute later the Tiktok Dad had the audacity to say “two is a tough age.” 

No s**t Sherlock! Of course, it is when you bring toys to the park and then don’t have the wherewithal to manage the consequences of those actions. Was I in the wrong? Was my two-year-old supposed to understand the mood shift of the dump truck owner? 

I don’t think so. 

Tiktok Dad should have said “no” to bringing the dump trucks to the park or had a conversation about sharing with his child. To quote Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain “It’s like being in charge of the weather and then crying about the rain.” Just typing this out has got me heated. I need an ice tea.