I’m wondering how friendly or unfriendly are you supposed to be with the other parents/caregivers. Because yesterday, it was all awkward starfish at the neighborhood park.
It started out normal. We rolled up and upon sweet exile from her stroller, Sweet Pea was all about the gravel. The climbing structures, the swings, the miniature house? Not even on her radar. As far as Sweet Pea was concerned we were at an All You Can Eat Gravel Buffet. She was hitting the gravel hard and going back for seconds, thirds, and fourths, oblivious to my repeated imperative “Not in your mouth!”
And then she caught sight of the other kid and the gravel was nothing more than a distant memory. She ambled up the concrete stairs with laser sharp focus, her eyes on the little girl with the bear hat, yelling “Ha! Ha! Haey! Hi! Hi!” until she caught the girl’s attention. Their eyes locked. From a distance of eight feet with only the plastic walls of a miniature house between them, they were caught in each other’s gaze, Sweet Pea grinning her (mostly) toothless grin, while the little girl stood silently with a shy smile.
I smiled, first at the child, and then at the adult companion (presumably the mother). But she wouldn’t make eye contact. I said hi. She did not engage. Now, I’m not looking for a new best friend. Or even a park buddy. Or anything, really. Seriously, not even a babysitter or a tax accountant. I’m good with all that. But what do you do when your child is engaged in a staring contest to end all staring contests and she’s too little and too unsteady to be so close to concrete stairs for you to walk away and the parent of the other child won’t acknowledge your existence with even the vaguest hint of a nod?
Believe me, I get wanting to let your child roam free in a safe area while you catch up on email, Google Reader, Twitter, and/or Facebook. I mean, in the theoretical sense of course, I can understand why one might do this. Not that I have ever gone to the library for exactly this purpose. And not that I’m annoyed that I can’t do this anymore because Sweet Pea has discovered the joy of walking around all areas of the library with a piece of chalk that she either has in her mouth or dangerously close to the pages of the books.
But this woman wasn’t letting her kid roam free. In fact, the kid fell sort of on her face (from a height of about 18 inches) at one point and appeared to be 100% fine and the mom made this huge deal out of it. Admittedly, for all I know the kid has issues that I don’t presume to understand and it would actually be a huge deal if she fell on her face, so I am not judging. I’m just saying, the mom was less zoning out and more swooping in.
So she wasn’t there to let her kid run free while she chillaxed and she wasn’t there to make friends. But even a half nod could have conveyed so much. In her eyes I might have understood I am so over this miniature house, I sit in here for like five hours a week. I’m tired, my house is a mess and I don’t have the energy for a full nod or even a hello, but I know you feel me, sister. I totally would have gotten that.
Instead, I was left to wonder how long we were going to act like the other didn’t exist (indefinitely, it turned out) and whether I was being way too sensitive (probably, yes), and if there is some unwritten code of Park Etiquette. And if there is, can you fill a mother in? Thanks.