Sunday morning found me and Sasha over at Carroll Park, the frothing hub of weekend kiddie play in the middle of GoBoCoCa (Gowanus–Boerum Hill–Cobble Hill–Carroll Gardens). It was a warm day, but maybe because of the holiday the park wasn’t as overcrowded as it usually is; there was plenty of room for Sasha to run around and coast on her scooter and chase soap bubbles.
Ah, bubbles! It’s amazing how those floating spheres of soap so consistently thrill my kid; as I tell people again and again, bubbles rank pretty much at the top of Sasha’s love hierarchy, followed closely by Dora the Explorer, balloons, and Mommy. I rank a distant eighth. On a good day.
And on this day the bubbles were being blown—or, really, shot from an incredible battery-operated bubble gun (gotta get one!)—by a bearded dad maybe a decade older than me. Jodie, he said his name was, and he was there with his daughter, Charlotte, a 3-and-a-half-year-old with curly blond hair, brown skin, and Asian-looking eyes—pretty incredible. As Jodie (and, later, I) shot bubbles into the air for the screaming children to chase, he and I talked a bit about nothing in particular, just one of those casual parent conversations that we have again and again, often with the same people.
But what struck me about it was that a day earlier, at the birthday party for Nathan’s son, Nico, one of Nathan’s friends had complained to me about Carroll Park. It was, she’d said, not exactly a welcoming place—she’d never been able to make friends with the other parents there, and that once she’d started going to other playgrounds, she’d found them hugely more sociable, and Carroll Park less attractive.
Now, I’m not saying my brief chat with Jodie was evidence against her. I may never see this Jodie person again, and it won’t really bother me.
What it brought home, though, was that I actually expect nothing in terms of adult social encounters at the playground. When I’m out with Sasha, particularly at a playground, I’m not looking to make new friends, or have truly interesting conversations (as I do when I’m on my own); for me, it’s all about Sasha, and what she’s doing, and who she’s interacting with. At the same park few weeks earlier, in fact, she’d had a great time playing with a 4-year-old boy, who I nicknamed Guacamole. Guac’s mother (or maybe nanny?) was there, too, but she and I barely spoke, and that was fine. The kids were having a great time, and that was enough for us.
But now I’m curious. Do most parents take their kids out to playgrounds partly (or primarily) in hopes of interacting with other adults? Or am I alone in not giving a damn about the other grown-ups?