That is the unspoken scream of a neglected child. Recently I visited a park with my son. The playground was pretty much ours for the taking; expect for a little girl and the person I presume was her mother. So my son was, in our imaginary world, “King of the playground” (It’s quite the honor). I never did catch the names of these two strangers, nor would I share them if I had.
At first I made no real note of them and my 2 year old son was oblivious to their existence as we ran up, down, and all around. We were witches, pilots, animals, and anything we could imagine. After this bright eyed little girl made another unsuccessful shy attempt at playing with my son I finally noticed that her mother sat at a distance, paying more notice to her cell phone than the child. Had there been a plethora of other children around I am certain it would not have mattered much, but seeing as we were the only others there, she seemed quite lonely. Honestly I felt sorry that my son did not want to play with her, but I could not blame the boy. At 2 years old he had already been bullied a few times on the playground, making him rather leery of other children he did not know. Then again, can you blame the boy for wanting to play with his “best friend” (as he has called me a time or two), his mommy.
I crawled under a 2 foot slide and sprang forth as the beast I had become. As most beastly mothers do, I tickled my little victim vigorously. Again I looked over to see the mother texting away and I thought to myself. “Why is it that I am crawling here, making an utter fool of myself while you sit at the sidelines ignoring your child?” Being the completely non-confrontational person that I am, I said nothing to her. Not to mention that this was none of my business. Who was I to judge? I am certainly not the perfect parent. Not to mention I did not know her and how was I to know if this was the way she always behaved with her child.
However this experience brought something to my attention over the following days. I realized as I went to the park that I was often the only parent on the playground equipment. That I was the only parent playing these games with my children. Hey, maybe that makes me some sort of freak or maybe I just don’t go to the right parks. Or just maybe something is wrong with these parents and society in general.
I decided to delve deeper into this topic. I want to know what these children are missing out on, not just on the surface, but on a deeper level. According to an article on babycenter.com entitled How your child benefits from play, written by Kim Wallace, play is important for four major reasons. Play builds the imagination, it builds social skills, physical development, and it helps them to work through emotions. So now we have loosely established that play is important, but now you may be saying “That’s what they have friends for”. Well yes and no.
Sara Wilford expertly displays the importance of play with a parent on babycenter.com. Sara states that ” Interacting with you, however, is invaluable: This time spent together strengthens your bond. Another huge benefit is the opportunity you have to teach your child through example. ” Play is a way that you can reinforce that foundation you have been building for your child. Remember that while friends are crucial in a child’s life, they come and go, but parents are a constant. They need to know that we love them enough to put down that latte, book, computer, etc and show them that they come first. That play is important to us too.
So to all you parents out there, channel that inner child, and give your children memories that they will never forget. Now go out there and show the world that you have not forgotten how to PLAY!
Kim Wallace,How your child benefits from play , babycenter.com
Sara Wilford, How does my child benefit from playtime with me as opposed to playtime with peers, babycenter.com