Playground Etiquette 101
Lesson One – Supervise your kids.
Lesson Two – Lesson One does not mean leaving a box of hot chips on the bench seat for your toddler to share with the birds while you disappear for a coffee with your girlfriend, all the while assuming that your 4-year-old will be looking after said toddler and his bird poo chips.
Lesson Three – If it is essential that you remain well away from the playground perimeter so as not to spill your coffee on unsuspecting children during your engrossing and animated conversation with your girlfriend, at least sit on your all-singing-all-dancing picnic chair with your face in the general direction of the playground in case your toddler should pace the fence line crying, “Mummy… Mummy…” and not find you. You wouldn’t want to be accused of neglecting your toddler.
Lesson Four – It is important that you maintain eye contact with the park and, specifically, your children during your coffee gossip session in case your elder child should punch (yes, punch, not hit or shove or push, but closed-fist punch) an unsuspecting toddler whose father is standing close by, supervising (see Lessons One and Two).
Lesson Five – When father of unsuspecting toddler ROARS (as a Lion should) at your child, attend to the situation immediately. Do not wait for unsuspecting toddler’s father to dish out the reprimand and swift lesson in social graces then scan the horizon far and wide while shouting, “WHO OWNS THIS KID?” No amount of “Oh my God, I’m so sorry, what happened?…” will make up for your lack of presence.
Lesson Six – Whisking your 4-year-old away from the playground to momentarily stand by your all-singing-all-dancing picnic chair while you adjust your bling, take another sip of your coffee, titter with your girlfriend and flick your 18 shades of bottle blond to stylishly surround your designer knock-off sunglasses is not taking disciplinary action (as torturous as watching your personal grooming routine may be for a 4-year-old… or anyone, for that matter).
Lesson Seven – Sending your 4-year-old back to the playground with a soccer ball to kick around the equipment is also not discipline, even if you shout after him, “And see what your brother is whingeing about”. Said brother is still plaintively calling for his mother between bites of bird poo chip. He needs his mother. That would be you, Miss Glamour-Puss.
Lesson Eight – If you should decide, despite this course in Playground Etiquette, that you will continue to use public playgrounds as free daycare, other parents as free (and unwitting) babysitters, and local wildlife as custodians of your children’s less-than-nutritious afternoon tea, then at least ensure that any conflict of the above nature does not take place in full view of the unsuspecting toddler’s mother lest she trawl the net for “How to make a Voodoo Doll” that very afternoon. (Yes, that would explain the stabbing pains in your eyes, your 18 shades of bottle blond loss and the mysterious collapse of your all-singing-all-dancing picnic chair atop your designer knock-off sunglasses. Go figure.)
Lesson Nine – Remember, always, that it is people like YOU who destroy the sisterhood of motherhood. It is people like YOU whose toddlers approach breastfeeding strangers to show their pretty flower to, because their mother is too busy being… somewhere else entirely. And it is people like YOU who will, one day when you are old and crotchety with blue hair and bent back from those years of carrying too much bling, be left by your children in a fenced area with all manner of ‘fun’ activities to occupy you while your children go off and… well… just go off.
Lesson Ten – If you are in doubt about the slight variations to Playground Etiquette that may apply to indoor settings such as shopping centre play areas, doctor’s waiting room activity centres, cheap-and-nasty burger outlet playlands and the like, please complete Playground Etiquette 102 next week. In the meantime, say the following prayer for forgiveness:
“I, Miss Glamour-Puss, have been so busy farting higher than my arse (my grandmother taught me that saying – it’s great isn’t it?!) that I have not realised that my accessories… baggage… children need more than entertainment; they actually need my attention. I promise to make eye contact with them from time to time… regularly and I promise to handle… deal with… tolerate… nurture them every week… day. I will do this begrudgingly… willingly and with love. Amen. (PS: can I have another picnic chair and knock off sunnies too? Ta.)“