It always happens around 4:00.
The morning coffee is long gone; the brief, sweet respite of naptime is a distant memory.
It’s too early for wine. My one-year-old daughter has decided solid food is not worth the trouble of chewing and has chosen instead to latch on to my very sore left nipple for what seems like forever.
My two boys are taking advantage of my being trapped under a cranky, nursing baby to invent a new game that involves an excessive amount of screaming and I’m pretty sure the older one just instructed the younger one to leap from the top of the bookshelf.
It’s time for a trip to the playground.
I love the playground. Here in Los Angeles there are an infinite number of them and the constantly sunny weather allows us to explore them all. My house cannot contain the non-stop energy and endless destructive curiosity of three children all below pre-school age. My sanity cannot either. Without the playground I’d have cracked long ago. I’d make Miss Hannigan look like Mary Poppins.
The playground, however, can take anything my kids can dish out while I enjoy a few moments of actual adult conversation with another playground parent and recharge my patience to last through till bedtime.
Thank you playground parents! Most of you are going through your own version of the same thing I am and without this outdoor haven and your friendly commiseration, I’m pretty sure my husband would come home to find my feral children eating fruit rollups and mustard for dinner while I rock myself, crazy-eyed, in the bathtub humming The Wheels on the Bus over and over again while biting my nails. I’ve met a lot of interesting people at the playground over the last few years, but these are my favorite:
1. The Rich Mom.
Yes, she looks cuter at the park than you do on date night. Her shoes are really not practical and her stroller cost more than your monthly rent.
Believe it or not though, you probably have a lot in common with her. There is no class here, just all of us trying to get a little break. You might think she has it easy because she has a nanny and a cleaning lady, but in parenting, there is no such thing as easy. She’s going through it too and probably needs a friendly face as much as you do. Plus, if you make friends with her, play dates are her place with the extra help, the fancy snacks, and the immaculate, grassy backyard are always the best!
2. The “Crazy” Mom.
Trust me, you want to make friends with the Crazy Mom! She isn’t like the other moms at all and that’s what’s great about her. She rolls up blasting 90s Fiona Apple and wearing flip-flops in the rain. She will talk your ear off at a million miles an hour but it’s okay because her drama is interesting and told in a way that’s so off-the-wall funny that she deserves to be the next YouTube star.
Don’t let her over-the-top first impression put you off—she’s a great friend to have.
Her all-over-the-place lifestyle makes her really great at multi-tasking and she can pass out snacks, fill you in on her latest misadventure and snag your kid back from falling off the jungle gym all at the same time without spilling her coffee. Her say yes to anything attitude can make even a mundane day at the zoo seem like an adventure.
3. The Holistic Mom.
This mom homeschools, makes organic meals from scratch, runs a successful Etsy store selling handmade baby soap and still has time for a daily yoga practice. She can be so inspiring the way she fits in so much and makes it look so easy. This do-it-yourself hippie chick can be a great source of advice if you’re wanting to learn how to rebalance your life and responsibilities or even take on some more.
Plus, when you run out of diapers or forget the snacks, she’s got some all-natural extras and is always happy to share.
4. The Nanny.
People who become nannies usually do so because they love being with children. They are good at their jobs because they love what they do. They are usually playful with their charges and are more than happy to include your kids in their sand castle building or game of tag. Maybe it’s because they are being paid to be there or maybe it’s because they get to clock out at the end of the day but somehow the nannies always seem positive and cheerful even when they hear the dreaded words, “Will you push me on the swings please?”
Hanging out with the nannies can remind you how lucky you are that you get to spend this kind of quality playtime with your own little ones.
5. The Park Dad.
The playground can sometimes be a world of women and children but every now and then you get a few dads in the mix. Sometimes these guys are a little standoffish at first. Maybe they don’t feel totally comfortable or maybe they are afraid if they say hi it might be misinterpreted as flirting.
But if you strike up a conversation you’ll find he’s just a nice guy who also likes swapping stories about life in the parenting trenches.
Author: Krista Whipple
Volunteer Editor: Keeley Milne / Editor: Renée Picard
Photos: Loren Kerns/ Flickr