Excuse me for what this is about to become - a rant - but it's one in which I find necessary.
My toddler loves to go to the park. Specifically though, she loves to swing. We often go to the park and I find myself pushing her in the swing for 30+ minutes at a time... which I don't mind. I think it's so satisfying to see how much joy the swing brings her. I know these days won't last for long!
While I'm standing there pushing her, I have plenty of time to look around at what else is happening around the park. And seriously, it worries me. More than once I have seen a group of moms come in and collectively toss their designer purses and diaper bags on a picnic table (which in itself raises a red flag to me - I never leave my bag) and settle down on a circle of benches with their iced lattes, letting their children roam free. This is fine... I often need to sit on a bench while AJ plays, but I never take my eyes off of her, not for a moment.
I should also mention that the park we attend, while deemed "safe" in a suburban environment, is usually packed. At any given time, there are 50-60 little ones running around.
More than once I've heard a mom from the said group of latte drinkers casually get up from the group as they prepare to leave, and start to panic because she cannot find one of her children. The instance that sticks out in my head the most is when out of nowhere a mom screamed, "Oh my gosh, my son! Where is Jack? Jack! Jack!" She began to run around asking people to help her find her son, who ended up being about 50 yards going down a slide. Everyone in the park had their eyes on this woman, and when she found her son it was obvious that he couldn't be more than 16 or 17 months old. Seriously, lady? He could have been picked up and never seen again.
Another time, I witnessed a 10-12 month old crawl over to the edge of the woods and start eating a stick. His mom was about 20 yards away, and when she noticed it was more of a "ha ha" moment than anything else.
The last time we were at the park I was pushing AJ on the kiddie swings next to another mom, who had what I would guess a 2 1/2 year old boy. The mom's cell phone rang, and after proceeding to give her son one more big push, she walked back to the parking lot to take the call, leaving her son in the swing. Immediately the boy started asking for his mommy and to get down from the swing. I told him that his mom would be right back and that he would have to wait for her. I could not believe that she would leave him in the swing! At least the child had a sense that I was a stranger, because when I asked him if he wanted another push on the swing he said only his mommy could push him. By the time the mother returned, he was quite upset and she didn't seem surprised at all. Again, seriously!?
All of these incidents got me thinking - who are these people? I am in a local mom's group myself, but I had never seen anyone take a conversation with another mom more seriously than what their own child was up to. It scares me that there are people out there like this, that act like the world is nothing but safe and the suburbs are perfect. Please, please keep an eye on your children!!
Tips for Keeping Your Little Ones Safe at the Park
1. Don't bring along anything that would prevent you from helping your child climb and crawl and explore without your help. Keep bulky diaper bags locked in the car.
2. Keep early walkers within an arms reach of you at all times. For older kids, 10 feet is a good rule of thumb.
3. If you have more than one child, make a rule that they must stay together at all times so that you can keep an eye on both of them.
4. Remember that no matter how many parents are at the park with their children, it is your responsibilty and your responsibility alone to keep at eye on your children. The CDC reports that over 200,000 playground accidents happen per year that result in emergency care. Most of these accidents can be prevented. Stay alert!