How often do you see parents reading at the playground anymore? Or chatting amongst themselves? Or even looking at their phones?
Not much, I’d guess.
I’ve spent a few months in the US, and the experience of going to the playground is entirely different here.
In Germany, parents would congregate in one area of the playground. Grownups would stand around chatting with each other, occasionally helping a child out, kissing a booboo or intervening when children’s interactions came to tears.
Otherwise, though, parents mainly talked amongst themselves, leaving the kids to do their thing.
Here, it’s completely different.
In the last few months of visiting various playgrounds in our new town, the only parents I have chatted with have been almost exclusively Germans. I’ve only had a nice conversation with one American Mom.
Most of the time I find myself sitting on a bench by myself, watching my kids play.
The other day, I realized what’s happening.
Parents aren’t interacting with each other because they’re too busy entertaining their kids.
Longing for playground socializing
As a newcomer to the area, I thought taking my kids to the playground would be a great way to meet other parents. Not so.
Small chats do happen, and people aren’t unfriendly. But most folks are so busy with their kids that they won’t stop long to talk.
At first it made me wonder if I was doing something wrong or somehow neglecting my children. Then I looked around and spotted my boys, one happily playing on the slides, another dangling upside-down from the monkey bars. They were fine.
They didn’t want or need me to entertain them. And frankly, I wasn’t much interested in the monkey bars.
So now I bring my book
Perhaps it makes me look antisocial, sitting there reading. I try to glance up regularly to look around and see if there are any other parents hankering for a good old-fashioned playground chat.
If you see me reading at the playground, don’t worry about interrupting. Chances are, I’d welcome the opportunity to meet someone new.