Opinion

Police called to playground: Parents fighting over park swing

Parents fight over a park swing in Sydney, Australia and stir up a controversial debate over when it's appropriate to bring police into a situation.

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Photo: iStockphoto

It is a universal truth that playgrounds never contain enough swings to satisfy the demand. There’s also usually that one kid who parks their tiny butt on a swing and stays there for the duration of the day, often with the tacit approval of a parent. And that is exactly what happened at playground in Sydney, Australia over the weekend—but with very dramatic results.

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One father got so tired of waiting for his son to take a turn on the swing, he forcibly removed a young girl from the equipment right in front of her mother. The woman called the police, claiming she felt “intimidated” by the man. The police spoke to both parties and no charges were laid.

A witness to the incident, Elaine Stack, believes putting your hands on another child is a big no-no, but admits she hadn’t heard the father’s side of the story. She posted her version of events on Facebook, writing:

“I was just at the park & the police arrived. Seemingly a Mother was pushing her little girl on a swing when a Father approached & said he was also waiting for the swing. The Mother replied that they would be another 5 minutes or so. The Father proceeded to stop the swing in motion & tried to lift the daughter out! The Mother was very upset & called the police. Another parent in the park thought this was a little over board. What would you do?!? Would you call the police?”

Stack received more than 100 comments on her post, and the public verdict was an almost even split between people who supported the woman’s decision to call the police and those who thought she went overboard.

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Personally, I would only call the police as a last resort, especially over a minor incident involving a fight over a park swing. However, Stack brought up a point that hit home with me. She said that the mother told her after the incident that “she felt very intimidated, and that she’d called the police because she goes to the park all the time and wanted to feel safe there.” I would be scared if someone forcibly touched my child. I still don’t think that I would call the police, but would I ever go to that park again? Perhaps not.

It sounds like both parents got a little bit too “mama bear” over the incident. It is indeed very annoying when someone is a swing hog, or parks at the top of the slide or monopolizes all the sand toys. But it’s obviously worse when parents get pushy with one another and escalate the situation in front of their kids.

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In this particular situation, both parents lost perspective on what is appropriate behaviour and had tantrums worthy of a toddler. I hope their kids are young enough that they can still learn proper park etiquette from some other people.

How would you have handled this situation?

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

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