One of the many reasons I wish we had smartphones when my kids were little is that I would have liked to log the number of hours we spent at the playground. Both my son and daughter were born with a fierce climbing gene – they seemed magnetically attracted to hoisting themselves up onto any tall object, without an ounce of fear. To avoid accidental falls onto hard surfaces, we spent countless days at playgrounds. As Army brats, they got sandy at playgrounds in Hawaii, dusted with snow and bark in Colorado, and covered in dirt and rubber mulch in California. Life back then seemed like an endless blur of slides, swing sets and monkey bars.
Now that my kids are both in college, I find myself “mothering” my extremely energetic dog in similar fashion to those active children of days gone by. Bailey and I spend many hours at the local dog park, where she can run far and fast, and the playground similarities are striking:
- As anyone who’s spent time at a playground can attest, there’s always that one parent who pretty much ignores their child, and directs all their attention to talking, or reading, or anything other than the fact that their kid is maliciously throwing sand or pushing a smaller child off the merry-go-round. At the dog park, it’s the huge pile of warm poop they never seem to see their dog deposit on the grass.
- Playgrounds always had at least one Martha Stewart Mom. You know the one – she arrived smiling with enough beautiful snacks to share with any kid who asked for one, complete with color-coordinated napkins and all-natural juice boxes to spare. At the dog park, there are the generous folks who bring big jugs of water and multiple tennis balls for any dog who is interested in their way- better-tasting water and the orange ball that’s so much nicer than your slobbery, green one.
- Every playground had the Solo Roamer – the child who wandered far off and became engrossed with flowers or bugs or some kind of trash that a parent was horrified to see anywhere near small children. Dog parks are home to the canine equivalents, who ignore all the other dogs and obsessively patrol the fence line, looking for lizards and rodents – like my prey-driven hound sometimes does. You do you, doggo!
- Perhaps the most annoying similarity is the child/dog who indicates they want to leave. This packing up process with kids always seemed to take a half hour- gathering up toys, dumping sand from shoes, and locating sweatshirts and hats. The second you were actually ready to walk towards your car, one child had magically found a new best friend and was happily playing and yelling that they wanted to stay longer. Same with a dog – down to the “smiling” face as they glance back at you while trotting away, side by side with a fluffy Husky. Sigh.
- But the best thing about both the playground and the dog park is the blissfully exhausted little being in the back seat who gets home and crashes for an extended and noiseless nap. Time for Mom to go post those pictures and video of her baby.