When you are with your kid in a public setting your parenting is always on display. The way you react to your child, the type of strategies you employ, whether or not you lose your patience because they keep grinding their pacifier into the dirt next to the trash and then putting it in their mouth, are all available for others to see and judge. And nowhere is this more prevalent than the playground.
The playground is prime for parental policing because everyone there is a parent, and has opinions on how people parent. And parents at the playground know that every other parent is analyzing them, so they are extra concerned by how their parenting is perceived. You watch how others discipline, if they yell, if they use the distraction method, if they are taking a Waldorf approach and trying to negotiate with a tantruming toddler. It is all under a microscope being picked a part and dissected.
I have been hitting up a few new playgrounds in my recent travels, and have been able to observe some seriously self-conscious behavior, especially at the swings. You are stuck pushing your kid into an oblivion of dizzying flow, and have to stand next to other parents all watching how everyone else relates to their child.
Are you going to tickle your kid’s feet or play peek-a-boo to show how playful and fun your relationship is? How high are you going to push them and how does your kid react? Does this prove how laid back I am and how extreme my kid is if I push them super high. What if your kid gets freaked out or bumps their head. Do you cater immediately or tell them to brush it off. Is my kid tougher than yours? More bad ass? How I push my kid on the swings and whether or not they laugh is obviously a major indicator right?!
Just me at the park, nonchalantly training The Munch to be a world class gymnast while I stare wistfully out into the ether.