Friday, February 18, 2011

Tweens Unwanted at the Neighborhood Park?!?

I've just returned from our neighborhood park and am STEAMING. I need the counsel of fellow tween parents: another mother has intimidated my older girls and made them feel unwelcome at the park. Has this happened to anyone else? How did other parents handle it?

We were at the park this afternoon with all the kids, and I was pushing the toddler on baby swings while our tweens were sitting on big kid swings. No one was waiting for any swings or hovering.  Then another mother approaches the swings with a toddler in tow, and my eldest daughter hops off the swing. This other mother says in a voice clearly loud enough and intended to be heard by us, "Those girls are not supposed to be here. This is a Tot Lot. They should get off the swings."

I say, "Excuse me?" And she repeats her statement. Our tweens are threatened at this point and both leave the Tot Lot. I address the mother and say, "My girls are happy to leave the swings and always give them up when they see little kids approach. You just walked up now -  all you had to do was ask, but you don't need to make them feel intimidated or uncomfortable to be here." She replied unkindly and said again that this a Tot Lot and they don't belong. Then we went back and forth, and I'm so upset that I no longer remember the blow-by-blow. I am certain that I was not at my best at this point.

Parents, I need your counsel: Are older kids who are well-behaved and NOT loitering and clearly playing with their younger siblings and parents as a family allowed at the neighborhood park? I checked all the posted signs and saw none restricting the age range for the park. We go to this park regularly and have for years; our older girls always help other kids at the park (pushing them on the swings or watching the younger ones on the climbing structure) and babysit for families in the neighborhood. Now, our tweens feel unwelcome and uncomfortable at their own neighborhood park.

Certainly we don't want older kids monopolizing the equipment or making younger kids feel uncomfortable, but tweens shouldn't feel unwelcome either. Shouldn't whole families be able to enjoy the park together? How is a mom of older kids supposed to keep an eye on multiple kids in different locations? And in this time when our country is facing an epidemic of childhood obesity, do we really need any impediments to tweens going outside to play? Any advice? Did I over-react? What can we do to make them feel welcome again?

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