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taking the kids to the park

(Thanks for all the well wishes on my last post. I'm feeling much, much better.) 

This happened a few months back. August, actually...


I tell the kids that today, we are going on an adventure! We are going to a park that we've never been to!

My definition of adventure has changed over the years. 

Anyway, I've heard good things about this park. We go to a lot of parks. By "park" I mean a constructed city or suburban park with play structures and grass. I'm still searching for the perfect one. I can pretty much always point out all the things wrong with a park. I have a whole mental checklist of safety, fun, visibility, ratio of nice to mean kids, unattentive parents or nannies and cleanliness. I'm like an undercover park inspector. I guess this means I'm a little, tiny bit critical of parks. I hate them. 

So we arrive.  

Here is an aerial map:

I don't know who designed this park. But they should be fired.

I didn't even notice the poor design at first. So just ignore that part for now.

So we arrive. Oops, I already said this. Okay. We are at the park now.

The three of us walk to the play structures together and then:

They ditch me. And run in opposite directions.

The sheep herder in me awakens. I would hate to be a real sheep herder. The stress! I can't think of a more stressful job than having to keep track of moving, living things. Making sure they are safe and getting enough to eat and all that. Wait, was I just talking about sheep herding or parenting?  

I look back and forth "kid 1, kid 2, kid 1, kid 2" and then follow Crappy Baby because he is attempting to climb something metal and dangerous.

While he goes down the slide I search for Crappy Boy.

This is what I see:

I think I see him. Is that him? He keeps going behind that wall. Why would they put a wall between the play structures? Don't park designers know that parents would probably like to be able to see different sections of the park? Is it really that important to segregate the ages that you need a brick wall between the structures? Is that him? I think that is him. 

My mind rattles on like this for an entire three seconds. And I turn to check Crappy Baby:

And I don't see him. Frantically, I scan the area.

And I see him:

Toddling right towards the edge of cement. That drops off like a mini-cliff into the pond. 

I run! 

And I barely catch him before he steps right in.

My heart pounding, I'm filled with that nauseating combo of adrenaline and relief. I collapse onto the cement for a moment with one arm hooked around him. 

Why would they put the toddler play structure right next to a cement drop off into the pond? Don't park designers know how dangerous this is? How many kids have actually fell in? How many near heart attacks of parents has this caused? 

My mind rattles on like this for an entire three seconds. And then I remember that I have another child to herd.

I look. 

But this is all I see:

Thanks to that idiot wall I can't even see the bigger kids play structure.

I don't have time for another three second mental rant about park design.

Instead, I pick up Crappy Baby to go look for Crappy Boy:

And he doesn't like that. 

We get to the bigger kids play structure and I can't find him. I can't find him anywhere.


I circle the slides and climbing thing and I can't find him. My heart pounds. I get that panic feeling of the bottom of my stomach falling out. I feel cold and shakey.

Then I see him:

He is underneath some stairs. 

He says he is hiding.

I'm in full protective angry mama bear mode. Who is he needing to hide from? I'm ready to fight! What nose picker is being mean to my kid? I will hunt him down. And then I will look at him. Sternly.   

But it isn't what I thought. He says he is hiding from me and says we are playing hide-and-seek.

Which I didn't know. Because he didn't tell me. 

So I remind him that he has to tell the other person that he wants to play hide-and-seek. 

He listens and promises that he'll tell me next time he is hiding.

Crappy Baby is getting squirmy again so I set him down.  

Crappy Boy tells me he is going to hide again and runs one way. 

And Crappy Baby simply says "water" and runs the other way. Towards the pond. 

Exasperated, I yell "wait!" but they pretend to not hear me and keep going. 

But then I hear something.  

I'm saved! I'm saved by a bell. Several tinkling bells, actually.

The boys freeze. These tinkling bells are familiar. They chime a promise of happiness. 

Frozen happiness. 

Enter the ice cream truck, pulling into the parking lot. 

Yes, there have been times when an ice cream truck ruined a perfectly good day at the park. When I don't have cash. When I say no because they ate cookies for breakfast. Or whatever. 

But not today. Today, the ice cream truck saves a perfectly bad day at the park.

Sitting in the parked car, they enjoy their popsicles while I enjoy having them contained. 

Crappy Boy expresses how much fun he had:

He even asks if we can come to this particular park again.

Exhausted and slumped in my seat, I answer:

Or maybe I'll just give them popsicles. 




Disclaimer: My park hatred exludes nature parks where you can go hiking and see trees and deer and all that beautiful outdoorsy stuff. I love those! 


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LOL Love this! Thanks for sharing! Would love to have you as a guest blogger some day on our site!

The people who design these things clearly don't have kids. Or never went to the park with more than one kid. Thanks for the laugh.

This is the best post ever. I feel the exact same way about parks and like you I take the kids because they have fun but it is nothing but stress for me herding them.

HAHA! You are sooo right! This is exactly how I feel.

Awesome! This is why I started my blog! So moms could find out what the playground looks like before they get there! I have drug my toddler to over 60 parks since May. And all it has done is turned her into a dare-devil on the huge school-aged play structures!

Oh my gosh so true. It's so exhausting! Our 2 parks in town both have issues. They really need to consult more moms when they build parks!

lol, I'm laughing my butt off over this! I have tears streaming down my face, thank you so much for the laughs! You've made my morning!

My favourite kind of parks are the ones with parents who use the park as a babysitter, and every child on the playground is swearing/hitting/pushing/pulling hair and the parents are sitting on a bench five hundred miles away from where they should be, chatting on the phone. YAY!

Hehehe this is my exact park experience! EVERYTIME! I hate parks unless they are empty..

What a great resource!!! Any St. Louis moms go check it out!

I hate parks where the stuff is spread out! Because there is no way both (or all) kids will want to be in the same area.

And then there's always another parent giving you the fish eye for not paying "proper" attention to one of your kids while you're trying to keep the baby from plunging to his death.


I could not agree with you more regarding the endless search for the perfect park. They all suck, and the park closest to my house, within walking distance, is the suckiest, most dangerous, most broke-ass, sad-looking park of all time. When I was reading the part about the brick wall I could totally sympathize with you frustration. Who in their right mind would design that? Some evil parent-hater, probably.

Adorable. Love that you are the park inspector. I have to agree I have yet to find a well designed park. I only have the one, but still it is hard to keep up.

A cement drop off and an unprotected pond next to a playground? Someone didn't have their head on straight.
I know the feeling of having to search for a kid at the park and having them run opposite directions at the same time. Sometimes the ice cream man can be an angel for stressed-out mommies.

Loved this one! We have a wall of death at one of our city parks too, except ours falls off into a parking lot/street. It is really great and safe. No, not really.

Glad to hear you are on the mend!
Keep up the great work!

I had the same sinking feeling at a big kid/small kid park this summer, so I can totally relate to the stress! :) We moms need a clone...

This is so spot on and hilarious! Please write a book, I would buy it in an instant and give it to all my mommy friends.

Awesome! Glad to hear that you are feeling better! Yeah it never ceases to amaze me the design of some of the parks that I have here as well!

Haha! This is precisely why I don't take my kids anywhere! Just kidding... but seriously, we avoid playgrounds like the one you just described AND public pools. At the pool, there is no way to convince a 5 and 6 year old that they have to stay in the kiddie pool area with their 1-year-old brother. They sneak off to the semi-deep water repeatedly while I try to chase the toddler around while carrying the infant.

Forget it... I bought a bigger pool for the house and survived the summer by inviting friends over to swim and play on our swingset. Note: this automatically recruits adult-helpers for keeping an eye on the youngest of the brood. Bonus!

I second this!

What about parks that put the benches as far away from the shady trees as possible? So the parents get to watch their kids while sitting in the blinding sun? (or just sit on the wet grass instead.) Or you are surprised to see the park landscaper taking a siesta under the bouncy bridge? (maybe that only happens in California...)

This couldn't be more accurate. I think you must have video cameras following me around because this is exactly what it is like to go to the park with my two! The both go in different directions and I'm left sprinting between them and picking up the toddler who screams and doesn't want to be picked up. Thanks for all the laughs today and so glad you are feeling better!

I hate it when I finally find a good park with good play structures and it's right next to the Unknown Dense Forest of Spirits and God Knows What Else.

You forgot to add the broken vodka bottles... or is that just in the UK?

Our parks are like that too, just terrible!

I would love an empty park, I've never seen one empty except on rainy days around here.

I am in love with the fact that when I do break down and take my kids to the local germ ridden park I don't have to worry about my 8 yr old terrorizing another child. She just finds someone close to her age to chat up and follow around. My 4 yr old loooves the park and goes up and down the most dangerous of obstacles and has yet to break something. I stay close enough to him w/o stalking him. If I had to grab him I could. I just want them to play and be free for as long as my panic attack will allow me to last. 15 min. And then i'm bribing them with ice cream to leave. lol

Or maybe an assistant or even a sister wife!

This is why I avoided large playgrounds until my two (5 and 7, 17 months apart) were old enough to climb without looking like they were actively trying to kill themselves, and mostly wanted to go in the same direction anyway.

This is awesome!

I hate parks too and I'm so relieved to hear someone else admit this! Thank you for the laughs today, I really needed it.

I had that sinking feeling the last time we went to our neighborhood park and "lost" my three year old for a moment. He was just behind a slide but those two seconds felt like years! I can't imagine what it would be like having two to keep an eye on, kudos for you for even taking them to a park. I loved this post, so glad you are feeling better!

I actually decide at which parks in my area that my kids can go barefoot in just in case there may be broken glass or needles. I know sounds bad but we live in the city, we are moving to the burbs soon.

Do you live in Holly Springs, NC??? Other than a the little partitian between play areas (instead that have over/under beams that I can't run and jump over gracefully in a hurry), they do have a lovely "death pond" and ever-so-inticing stream/creek leading up to it full of tree roots, dog poop and whatever else you don't want your kids to trip in and onto. GREAT POST - you cracked me up!

Yes, just go for the popsicles next time and skip the park! LMAO

You get to sit?!

And my husband wonders why I don't take our two daughters to the park often and choose, instead, indoor play structures where they can play a little more safely.

Yes, I think that is my plan!

Parks must be universally horrible because they are exactly like this here in Canada too! I can't wait until the day they are at an age where I can just sit on a bench and read a book. I always thought going to the park would be relaxing. HAH!

LOL....LOL.....that just made my day!! I just have 1 baby to wrangle, but even that causes near coronary failure. Glad you're feeling better!

I know you're in Southern California, but I'm not sure if you're in Orange County. A blog I've used to scout parks is:

I rarely go to a park without another mom I know. :)

awesome. i hate going to the park too. i hate dealing with stupid parents and caregivers. i avoid it unless someone is with to provide back-up. another post that made me laugh. you're funny.

Thanks for posting Amber - I was expecting you to take a longer break to recover! Glad to hear you're feeling better......

Seriously though a brick wall separating the play areas? What smart ass thought that was a good idea?

Our local park is a two minute walk from our house so we visit a lot. Although it is not perfect (open gate to a busy road being the main one), both the big kids and little kids areas are adjoined and the duck pond is visible but far enough away not to be a hazard. My main pet peeve is the teenagers that hang around the play area smoking and hogging the swings.

I have a love/hate relationship with play parks. I love that it tires out my two year old. I hate that I'm exhausted after our visit. I'm usually following him around so he doesn't fall or get in someone's way, or making sure no one is picking on him, or making sure no one takes him. I like ones with fences so I know he can't run off if I lose track of him.

I guess a lot of park designers don't have kids. When my husband was a kid, the school playground had asphalt- and it still has asphalt to this day. A lot of chipped teeth in that town. And I went to a park once where the playground wood chips ended immediately at the parking lot. No grassy barrier between cars and kids.

Great post. let your kids have popsicles in the backseat? Man. My car would be a moat of sticky disgustingness if I did that.

I didn't realize you live in LA but even your crappy drawing can't disguise my most hated park! For some reason the one mommy group I (used to) meet up with always wanted to go to that park. Even before he could walk my 2-year-old wanted to jump into that duck poop infested sludge pool while all the other babies happily laid on their blankets in the shade.

Oh me too!!!!! Please write a book!!!!

I bumped into a fellow Ma at the park the other day who told me she mostly took her daughter to the park on full-blown rainy days. She dressed her in wellies and an all-in-one rainsuit and let her go wild in a totally empty playground. GENIUS!

OMG this is so how i feel, our park is pretty much like that, the cliff of death, and the play structures for the little kids is right next to the cliff of death and the big kids structure us across the road...

Once a mother, always a mother - man-made parks are terrible and exhausting. Even when your own children are not in attendance, a mother must continually circle and search for "bad things."

The only thing worse than a mother at a park is a former lifeguard at a body of water. With or without her own children. Never a moment's rest.

I hate responsibility.

Well you said you were "going on an adventure" and it sounds like that is just what happened! Glad you all survived.

No freakin' kidding! Don't even get me started on the swing trap! Why are the swings usually so far away from the other toys? Why do I have one kid that wants to be pushed for an hour and another who wants to climb on TOP of all the big toys? UGH!!!

I'm sorry you had such a bad day at the park, but if it makes you feel any better, you gave me a bad case of the giggles when I read about it. Your posts always brighten my day. Thank you! I hope you are back to your old self soon!

I have the same idea of adventure. Or we'll go to a mall we've never been before to see the fountain.
The playground we go to a bunch has a big structure that's supposed to be for 4 and up (or something like that) and then four panels of things to play with (a steering wheel and a few other things) for 2-4. It seems laughable that anyone would expect a 2 year old to stay playing with four panels when they could be running all over the play structure with the bigger kids. (There's also a panel of learning braille that's facing outwards from the platform it encloses and I can barely reach it. Not that I'm expecting kids to sit and learn braille at the playground, but still...)

I'm a St. Louis mom! Cool, thanks! :) I think the "idiot wall" is only helpful if you have a single toddler. It keeps them from seeing the side with all the giant children who are bound to knock them off of tall ladders to their demise in a pile of sand. But for more than one, that would really really suck.

There are no trees at our parks! If there are they are very short so you get no shade from them. In Arizona any type of slide plus the sun means instant burns.

@Ana, I'm with you. Since we're up at 6 anyway, we'll get the kid fed, and whisk him to the most remote park in the next suburb at 8am when no one's there and he has the full reign of the park. No trampling, no hitting, no near accidents, no tantrums. When people start to trickle in from their nice lazy Saturday mornings our kid is ready to go down for a nap. Incidentally, our latest find is a park with a great big pile of boulders leading up to a massively fun slide that you see in water parks. There's a single rail on the side for those who need guidance but the most direct way involves rock climbing. Most people are probably ready for it when they're about eight. or six.

Sounds like my trips to the park. they've gotten a lot better since My 2 year old started getting better balance and I don't have to worry about him falling off of stuff. I can now let them play while I continuously circle "kid 1, kid 2, oh crap where'd kid one go? .... there he is. kid 2? oi where did HE go? ...... crap where? ... oh there he... NO BY THE SWINGS... GONNA GET KICKED!! saved it. phew! that was really close. Crap kid 1... where's kid one? oh you want in the swing? ugh you're so dang heavy how are you so heavy? hurry put your feet in. kid 1? where are you.... give kid 2 a giant push and walk away just enough to scan park at a different angle. oh there you are! push push, scan. push push scan. " basically. we don't stay long at the park!

Ok. I only have one kid, and she isn't mobile right now. You are scaring me. However, this does bring back memories of the time I had to substitute for a kindergarten music class, and the teacher had made no lesson plans. Also, I know crap about music. I had to bust into old camp songs way in the abyss of my mind. Then I just let them run around and scream until 3 o'clock and decided not to care about it.



I love that there are piranha in the pond

Pretty sure if you could handle an entire class of 5-6 year olds running around you'll do fine!

I only have one and feel that way sometimes. Sometimes I wonder if people who design things for kids have ever been around kids. Popsicles and ice cream can solve almost anything in my opinion.

Ha ha, I wondered if any locals would recognize it!

And that is precisely why the backseat of my car IS a moat of sticky disgustingness. Desperate park evacuation measures were required.

I've seen parks like that too! It boggles my mind.

Me too. LOL

Yep. Exactly this.

The bit that gets me is that when hubby comes home and asks what we did that day? ..go to park, play etc. He thinks oh lovely! But... why are you so exhausted dear? Its hard work!!

They really are a great answer to almost any problem.

bahahahaha, LOVE IT!! This is exactly why I NEVER go to parks now. I have 4 kids age 5 and under, parks are impossible with that many kids. You just do not have enough arms to contain them all. My kids have to settle for our lame wanna be jungle gym in our yard, at least until they are older and more are in school.

Haha!! I SOOO relate to this!!! We have the coolest playground in the world about five miles from my house - it's huge, all-wood, and built into the woods. Awesome! However, I hate going there because it's impossible to keep up with both my 2YO and 4YO. Last time we went, my 2YO fell down the wobbly "earthquake steps" while I was waiting to help my 4YO down a fireman's pole. His forehead looked like I had glued on a purple tennis ball for at least a week.

Ahahaha! No because they had cookies for breakfast ... I love that you make me feel like not such a bad mom. Thanks! :D :D :D

At the park we used to go to all the time, the only bench was directly behind the sign for the park. so if you actually had a second to sit down, you couldn't see any of the playground. So stupid!

We have a decent park within a block of our house. It was a major criteria when we chose to buy the house actually.
The local underage teenagers can only afford beer cans apparently cause we haven't found too many broken vodka bottles and no needles. We have occasionally gone to the park with a plastic bag to pick up the empty cans :)
My worry is that my 4 year old might try to escape from our fenced yard and go to the park by himself! It may just be one street to cross but he's the kind of kid who doesn't pay attention to the point where he runs into walls when he's indoors. I don't feel he's ready to cross the street without holding hands with a grownup...

This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. They just put a park in my neighborhood and the "slide" is just two bars - nothing to sit on - apparently the kids have to wrap their legs around the bars? Parks everywhere have clearly been designed by policymakers who don't have children. And what about shade for the baby swings? It's never to be found...

YAY YOU'RE BACK!! So glad you are feeling better! I have this separated-play-structure dilemma all the time with a 3 and 5.5 year old. MANY times there are trees, or fences, or something blocking me from seeing one of the kids. We also have a nearby park that has water elements combined with giant square slabs of slippery granite for your children to climb on and slip off of (???) Your entire post was so unbelievable RELEVANT to my life. Thank you for taking time to make us all laugh today. Oh, and I love that the fish has teeth of course.

i hate parks. we even have one in our neighborhood that is pretty nice - wood chips, giant climbing thingy with slides, no water, etc. and mostly empty! score! right? no hate. in the summer it's hot and buggy and in the winter it's cold and windy.
i think you just convinced me to get a swing set in the back yard HAHA

hahahahaha! "undercover park inspector"

I think this is by far the best Crappy Pictures yet. I may weep as it speaks so much truth. Especially about Crappy Baby almost being eaten alive by eels. Eeels!!! EEEEEEEELLLLLS! The horrid things.

I think the idiots of park design designed our NYC parks too. No natural or artificial shade, metal slides (!), black seats for swings, and big kid and little kid areas separated by a hand ball court (?).
And why do they make the little kids play area like 4 feet off the ground? They don't need to be that high people! They are little. 6 inches is an improvement.

ps - I'm so addicted to your blog!

Yes please write a book! That would be my go-to baby shower gift.

ps - I think most DOG parks are designed better than kids parks. Double gates so they don't sneak out. Plenty of room to run and do any other business. Shade! And places for mamas (or owners) to sit.

Come on now. Kid park people, please talk to dog park people.

When my girls were small (they are 5 & 8 now) the park was Daddy's job.I took them to kinder gym, playgroup, baby music but Daddy did the park thing while I stayed home. Daddy quickly had them trained NOT to tell Mummy about falling off the slide or hanging upside down from the climby things. They are still fully functional so he must have done an ok job and they still LOVE the park.(Our local park is called the Adventure Playground ie Death Trap City...apparently we breed daredevils in Australia...sigh!)

My youngest is almost five, so these kind of park trips are basically done, thank goodness! We are also lucky that the local grade school is right down the street and they have a really nice playground that is set up very well since teachers need to be able to watch the kids, too. I honestly had not realized how lucky we are until this description of what has to be the STUPIDEST park design I have ever heard of. Yay for Popsicles!

Our park adventures include a five year old, twin three year olds and a soon to be one year old... And plenty of nasty parks near roads with no fences, 15 feet tall open play structures, no bathrooms, retention walls that border rocky cliffs or ponds and the occasional "Oooh Look Mama, balloon!!" (used condom) on the ground. Oh yeah that AND a few parks have signs that caution patrons to be on the look out for Rattlesnakes. I wish I was kidding.

I loved this post! It is so true!!! What I don't like are the kid friendly colors of the park that are supposed to liven up the park and spark imagination...blah blah thought is that those brightly colored play structures serve as nothing more than kidddie camoflauge....turn your back from your kidlet in the bright red shirt and blue pants for just a second...when you turn back...he's completely hidden in PLAIN sight. Whoever thought up this idea was clearly NOT. A. MOM!

This blog post and your comment, Adrienne, are why I have not been a big park goer. I always thought I was lazy, but now I think perhaps I am just smarter than some other parents. LOL.

Also, I think what happens if I have to use the bathroom. I can't fit everyone inside of that disgusting and dark place.

Ah this is so funny and so true! Australia is just as bad and I can only think that men who don't have children have designed them! There should be a law saying that only mums are allowed to design playgrounds from now on! LOL

Wow, before that post, I didn't realize how crappy parks were. But sounds like you're right - parks are terrible. Also - my mother-in-law used to herd sheep (and goats). NO JOKE. She grew up in a super tiny village in Greece and didn't even see a car until her 20s. She's a crazy good babysitter.

Yep. Pretty well bang on every park trip I've ever taken. Except for the pond because holy hell - rotten luck you guys have that kind of death trap. I have my hands full with the busy streets that border ours.

Oh, and our trip in August? Resulted in stitches for my youngest. I'm still traumatized.

We do playdates like this too! WAY easier!!

Ooooo, I live in St. Louis! Thank you! I lead our local MOPS group and they would LOVE this info.

But seriously, when designing a park, moms really should be consulted.

Parks and other city buildings are usually designed by city employees and elected officials. Occasionally an architect is involved. Unfortunately there isn't a true design process since an interior designer, or other specialist is needed (architects design buildings, not interiors or other layouts). If you were building a hospital you'd want to talk to someone who has designed hospitals right? The same applies to parks. There are people who specialize in parks. When this doesn't happen, you get parks like the one described above.

Great post! I'm glad this park isn't in my area!

I'm glad you're feeling better, Amber! Although, if I had mono and had to deal with two kids, you probably wouldn't hear from me for weeks! You're a trooper!

As always, thanks for the laughs. I only have one kid who's not quite walking yet, but I know this park experience from my baby-sitting days. I grew to hate parks then and I know I will again. They're EXHAUSTING!

But, kids have mastered that puppy dog look. That 'pwwweeeeaaase-take-me-to-the-park' look that makes you go weak in the knees and agree to take them. You forgot about how tiring it is; you convince yourself it will be fine this time. And then you get there....

Keep 'em coming. I'm completely addicted to your blog!

OMG! I can so relate. We went to a new park recently with friends. It had excellent equipment and looked super groovy but it was a child kidnappers heaven. The tunnels and slides went THROUGH a giant hill. so I was climbing up and down this wretched hill all day looking for my kids - if I wasn't following them through the tunnel or slide. I was exhausted and cranky by the end. And of course they didn't want to leave. By the time I got them in the car our roles were reversed! :-)

I took my youngest daughter to a random park on the weekend, which had awesome equipment, but was built right next door to some public housing. Nothing wrong with that, but there are an awful lot of drinkers who congregate in that park next to the playground, and so we had to smile nicely at the friendly drunk guy sitting just on the other side of the fence while he shouted encouraging comments and told us his life story.

Our worst park experience was due to that sort of behaviour the night before. I spotted the empty box of red vodka cruisers and empties over to one side of the playground, then found the broken glass, then found the multiple pools of pink you-know-what on the ground and down the slide :( At least they were opposite the hospital and within sight of the emergency room if someone had need of medical assistance :-/

Those people who design parks should be reqiured to have a PhD in Playground Engineering. And their final year of classes should be nothing but parents as the instructors - doing nothing but ranting about the different parks they've visited for hours at a time. I have yet to find a good park...

my neighborhood park has nice fancy gates around 75% of its perimeter...then a huge gaping space for the parking lot. because toddlers know not to walk into the parking lot, of course!!!!! SMH.

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