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What Do You Do When Parents Don’t Know How to Share?

swingset

Following a rainy Saturday, my husband and I decided to take our toddler to a local playground once the weather dried out. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had this idea, because the place was packed. Though it’s a pretty large space that can accommodate a fair amount of kids, the 2 to 5-year-old area only has two swings. Once my son grew tired of the slides and tunnels, we headed over to the swings, where a small line had formed. On the swings were two children–presumably siblings–each being pushed by what seemed to be one of their parents.

My husband and I chatted with our son as we waited our turn. But after a solid eight minutes had passed–I timed it–I started to get antsy. Didn’t the couple pushing their kids notice the long line of children waiting to swing? I said something to my husband along the lines of “that’s kind of selfish, isn’t it?” The woman in front of me turned around to nod in agreement. Yet nobody said anything to the couple hogging the swing set.

This went on for several more minutes. I looked at my watch, and saw that a whole 15 minutes had passed without the couple even acknowledging those of us waiting.

“Should we say something?” I asked out loud. There were only two people in front of us at this point; the rest had jumped ship around the 10-minute mark.

“I’d like to, but what can we say?” replied the woman in front of me, the same one who’d quietly seconded my frustrations a few minutes earlier.

I’ll cut to the chase: The swing-hoggers eventually let the rest of the kids have a turn. But as for how long they waited to let that happen, I can’t tell you, because right after we hit the 15-minute mark, my son–who had been behaving really nicely given the circumstances–started getting antsy, and we decided to give up and go back to the slides.

For the rest of the day I was outraged. Not just annoyed or aggravated, but outraged. Isn’t there some sort of unspoken parental code that dictates proper adult behavior on the playground? Namely, thou shall not hog the swings when other equally deserving kids are waiting.

Having spent my fair share of time at the playground, I’m no stranger to seeing kids fall short in the sharing department. It’s not unusual to see a small child just sitting at the top of a slide, failing to realize that he or she is holding up the line. It’s not even that uncommon to see a parent fail to react in that sort of situation, especially if he or she is busy chasing after another child at the same time. But seeing two adults actively engage in such selfish behavior is downright shocking.

In hindsight, I realize I could’ve–and should’ve–said something. Normally I’m not a particularly shy person; it’s not like speaking up would’ve fallen far outside my comfort zone. Rather, I think the real reason I kept quiet was as follows: I figured that if two adults are either a) so completely clueless, or b) so completely selfish that they cannot do the right thing on their own, then saying something probably won’t help. I also learned long ago that when it comes to grown people, you can’t teach others how to conduct themselves, even if their behavior is indeed abhorrent.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s encountered poor parental behavior in a public setting, and I wonder what others might’ve done had they been in my shoes.

And for the record, I will get over it. Eventually. But if I see that couple again, watch out.


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