I have been fortunate to have been on vacation for the first three weeks of July, spending lots of time at home with our kids.
Since I’ve spent the past 20 days pushing kids on swings and clapping sand out of their shoes, I feel like I’m a bit of a playground expert. I even know the intricacies of Grounders and can settle any debate over who is actually “it” with remarkable impartiality.
While I don’t have to deal with office politics during my time off work, there are a whole other set of playground politics to deal with in the summertime.
So this week, I thought it would be fun to create a guide for parents on dealing with 10 different types of adults you will probably encounter at the playground.
#1. The frustrated daycare worker
How to spot: She’s the woman with six toddlers crammed into her four-seat wagon. She tries to exude a calm demeanor, but her tired eyes tell the story of a woman who has cut up too many apple slices this week.
How to handle them: Mention that you think the stomach flu is running through your house and she won’t come anywhere near you.
#2. The parent who could be a grandparent, but you’re not sure
How to spot: You see a woman who could be a parent, but upon further inspection, she could also be the grandparent of the child at the park. Couples are having children at a later age and grandparents have never looked younger — thus creating a very murky grey area.
How to handle them: I cannot emphasize this enough: Treat this situation with extreme caution. Under no circumstances should you ever say, “Is that your grandchild?” If you do, you will devastate the woman if it’s actually her child. By saying, “How old is your daughter?” you are playing it safe. And if it’s the grandmother, she’ll be absolutely flattered by the statement.
#3. The perfect mom
How to spot: She shows up to the park like she’s just wrapped up a Vogue fashion shoot, complete with heels and an attitude. She has a funky purse, which actually doubles as a diaper bag. And her stroller is only available in certain parts of Spain.
How to handle them: Don’t worry, she probably won’t approach you in the first place.
#4. The smart phone dad
How to spot: While his three-year-old is dangerously hanging upside-down from the monkey bars, he’s wrapped up with his smart phone — either closing a business deal or playing Angry Birds.
How to handle them: Take a picture of his child in danger and then try and send it to him using Bluetooth technology.
#5. The gossip girls
How to spot: Usually a group of three-to-four moms who gather around in a circle and gossip about the inner workings of your neighborhood. They have a complete crossing guard schedule for your school and know that your daughter got a C+ in French last term.
How to handle them: Just like with the Bloods and Crips — or any good organized Asian gang — there is always a leader to these Mommy Mafia groups. Seek them out and befriend them at any cost — or you run the risk of being the subject of their gossip sessions.
#6. The desperate-for-a-conversation mom
How to spot: This poor woman has been watching countless episodes of Toopy and Binoo in the morning and just wants a little interaction with an adult. She’s so desperate to start a conversation she’ll say things like, “You’re wearing sandals? What a coincidence, I am too!!”
How to handle them: If you don’t want to be drawn into a conversation about the weather, just pretend you don’t speak English. And if you’re a visible minority like me, you’ll realize how easy this can be.
#7. The over-enthusiastic dad
How to spot: This is the dad who is so eager to make up for lost time with his son that he gets on the play structure himself. He does chin-ups on the monkey bars to impress the kids. He’ll even take up one of the swings, just to see if he can go higher than his son.
How to handle them: Just wait for him to get stuck in the tunnel slide and then pretend you can’t hear his cries for help.
#8. The nanny
How to spot: She might be the one from the Philippines with the two blonde kids. Or maybe she’s the young exchange student who prefers to be called an au pair. Whatever the case, she’s a lot more relaxed than the daycare mom because she only has two kids to deal with — and she gets to mentally check-out at 5 p.m.
How to handle: If the nanny is the slightest bit attractive, you can rest assured your wife will make sure you don’t go anywhere near her.
#9. Overly protective parents
How to spot: This parent is convinced their infant will be the first to flip off the baby swing, so they don’t give them big pushes. Each trip to the bottom of the slide is greeted with a quick spritz of Purell, just in case the Ebola virus has broken out on the play structure.
How to handle: Casually mention there is a sale on bubble-wrap at Home Depot and see if they immediately take off in their Volvo.
#10. The totally normal, well-adjusted dad
How to spot: He looks a lot like me.
How to handle: Be careful, because he’s probably judging you at the park.