Living in San Diego has some real bonuses! The weather has to be the most notable one. Coming from Colorado I really appreciate the year round mild, usually perfect, weather. My kids do too, and they take full advantage of it.
We have a safe, private back yard at our home. The children pass in and out freely and I feel comfortable with them playing out there unsupervised (yes, I said it!) - unsupervised! They are now six and almost two, and together or even alone they really enjoy spending time in our back yard. They have an empty garden box for digging in, sidewalk chalk, plants to water, flowers to cut and arrange, a broom for sweeping, bikes/trikes, and balls. There are also a variety of bugs, lizards, birds, bunnies, and plants for observing. Most importantly though, they get fresh air and vitamin D. When they start to get a little crazy inside I suggest they go out and play. Being outside immediately has a calming affect on them both. Sometimes my daughter just sits out there and reads a book, while the little guy makes mud cakes for her. I often her them laughing while they are out there; I think they actually get along better when they are playing outside than in.
As you can see they get plenty of essential exposure to the great outdoors. They don't lack in outdoor time, but I still feel I need to take them to the neighborhood park. I have a love-hate relationship with the park. The playground equipment allows children to strengthen and coordinate their gross motor skills in ways that ,unless you live on a rural farm or ranch, or practice a hunter/gatherer life style, your children probably do not get. While I love this opportunity for my kids to climb and develop their muscles in ways that they do not do otherwise, I don't love the other parents at the park. I don't like how parents follow their children around the park wherever they go, telling them what to do next, to be careful, to say "sorry", to take turns, and to be nice. Imagine what would happen if the parents just sat down on one of the many benches along the perimeter of the playground and just left their kids alone! They just might learn that they are capable of doing things on their own, or how to interact with another child who wants to do the same thing as them, or what happens when they jump from the steps instead of carefully walking down. We wouldn't want that would we?
Not only do these "other"parents burden their own children with their constant interference, but they also give me looks when I am not following their lead. As if I am a bad parent, just sitting on my butt, too lazy to take care of my own child. Well enough is enough. I have finally decided to be honest with them. When they are following their child around and telling them to be careful of my little boy, or to take turns with my daughter, I tell them I really don't mind if they let the children just figure it out on their own. When one of the poor, unsuspecting, parents tries to inform me that one of my children is trying to get up the slide, or might need a little help with the monkey bars, I politely tell them that I am observing them and at this point I would like to allow them to try to do it on their own.
I have tried this new method of honesty at the park, children's museum, and the children's art studio. Each time it has actually gone over quite well. Some parents are relieved to hear my point of view. They admit that they agree, but feel pressure from other parents to follow their kids around telling them what to do. One mom even told me that her kids look at her strange when she acts the helicopter parent, because she is only like that at the park, and when other parents are around!
If you are one of the "other" parents who truly feels the need to follow your child around at the park, I invite you to try to sit back and just let them be the next time you go. I am not encouraging you to let them get hurt or to bully. I would certainly intervene if I thought one of my children was in danger of serious injury or was bullying another child. However, it is important to remember that children will face physical challenges as well as confrontation from peers throughout their life, and the park just might be one of the best places for them to begin learning how to deal with such situations in a safe and peaceful manner. What better time is there to learn empathy, self-control, respect, or even the law of gravity!
If you are more like me, and have felt the pressure to act like an "other" while at the park, I invite you to just be honest the next time the situation arises. You will not only be standing up for yourself, but for your children too.
It is a beautiful day...who's up for a trip to the park?