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Playgrounds for Parents

May 31st, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  7 Comments

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?


  1. Daddy Files says:

    May 31st, 2011at 10:42 am(#)

    It’s a bonus if there are some cool parents there, but I don’t usually engage them in any substantial conversation. So I’d say other adults (unless they’re rude, violent, etc) are an absolute non-factor in my playground decision-making.

  2. Matt says:

    May 31st, 2011at 10:46 am(#)

    I wonder if this is a mom-dad thing, maybe? Some kind of gendered expectations for social occasions?

    Also, Aaron: Heard you on BBC this morning—congrats (or condolences?) on becoming your family’s breadwinner.

  3. scottstev says:

    May 31st, 2011at 11:11 am(#)

    I would think this is more a SAH Parent issue than a Mom/Dad thing. When you’re at home, your adult social life is much more dependent on your immediate neighbors and parents with kids your own age.

  4. Suzy says:

    May 31st, 2011at 1:29 pm(#)

    No, definitely not a gendered thing. I don’t seek out conversation with other parents, though I do try to be open to it lest my own social awkwardness interfere with Becca’s friend-making. Having said that, however, I do find that the parents at Carroll Park are less friendly than parents at other local playgrounds.

  5. Matt says:

    May 31st, 2011at 1:53 pm(#)

    Suzy, I think Carroll Park is less friendly mostly because it’s a madhouse—just too big and frenetic and multi-segmented for most people to have the brainspace to reach out and be sociable. Which is maybe why I actually managed to have a conversation there the other day: fewer people around over Memorial Day weekend.

  6. The Daddy says:

    May 31st, 2011at 3:11 pm(#)

    I don’t necessarily seek out conversation at the playground, but if the kid starts interacting with other kids and the parents and me end up gravitating towards each other, I find myself trying to strike up a conversation. It seems tougher to do with moms, but generally, I can get some decent stuff out of fellow dads.

    I’m a work from home dad, so I think I definitely fall into the category of wanting to chat with other people (rather than my own constant internal rambling) but it’s not like I want to get into religion or politics or anything. I figure we’re all sort of doing this parenting thing for the first time, fun to share some of the trials and tribulations or what kids’ shows we can and cannot stand.

  7. Surfer Jay says:

    June 2nd, 2011at 3:19 am(#)

    I would say the female species is more prone to socializing at the park in hopes of befriending other mothers.

    Me and the other hand, well, it all depends if there is a stone on the mothers hand or not…

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