You’ve probably seen me at the park, hanging near my kids, helping them on the monkey bars. Or maybe you glanced up from your phone to see me helping my boys – and yours, too – dress in astronaut costumes at the science museum. Perhaps I accidentally shadowed the sun on your tanning spot when I walked my son to the bathroom at the outdoor pool.
Or maybe you didn’t see me at all, because you were so very busy texting or tanning or glowering at your lap. Meanwhile, your child was doing one of three things: running around like a maniac and nearly killing himself, trying to get attention wherever he could from any human being that would look his way, or asking other parents for help when he couldn’t do something himself. And I’m happy to help him, but it does make me wonder why you brought him to a fun, family-centered place at all. Why not send him with a sitter and tan in your back yard?
I write this to you because I have seen so many of you out and about this summer. Expecting the more engaged parents to watch your child, to help him when he falls off the slide or needs lifted into the swings. To give him toys at the pool and watch the cool tricks he’d probably rather show his own mom. And I’ve seen you get angry when I’m forced to ask your kid to please stop hitting mine with a stick he ripped off a tree all the way across the park because I have to protect my child from your unattended one.
I know you’re tired, and you probably get sick of hanging out with your kids all the time. I’ve been there. Often. Believe me, I can’t wait for the day I can read a book at the pool when my kids are older and don’t need as much of my attention. But for now I play with them in the pool even when all I want to do is anything else. I read every damn sign at the museum because they can’t do it themselves, and because I take them places to spend time with them.
I’m not better than you; I don’t love my kids more than you do yours. But my point is, please don’t take your kids somewhere fun, somewhere you can help them discover new things and get to know their world and then leave them to run around unattached, clinging to any adult or possible playmate that walks by. Save yourself the money, stay home and sit on the couch while they play in your back yard or run unattended down your street, but please don’t make me be your babysitter so that you don’t have to involve yourself.
Or even better, put away your phone, lift your head, and find out what your child wants to do with you. Because I bet, or hope at least, that in five years when they don’t want anything to do with you at all, you might look back and wish you’d helped them put on that astronaut suit at the museum.