So, you can understand my hesitation in taking my kids out of the swings, even when I know other parents are waiting. Sure, their kid may be clamoring for a turn, but if I take mine out, we may as well call it quits. I have to take them home, screaming all the way.
But ignoring the imploring looks of another parent is difficult. With every push of the swing, the pressure builds. The parent starts to pace about 10 feet behind. "But I wanna swing," their child yells. "You can't honey," the parent says through gritted teeth. "Those kids are still on them."
Such is the dilemma.
I've stood in that parent's shoes before. In fact, that's why I choose not to take my kids out of the swings until I believe they will agree to it. I've learned my lesson. On the playground, playing nice and playing fair, at least when it comes to other parental behavior, doesn't pay.
I didn't always think this way. One afternoon, we arrived at the playground to find both baby swings available. Jonah and Abbey dashed for them. As Jonah was pointing at a swing and running as fast as his little legs would go, a bigger girl, one who could clearly use one of the normal swings, put her hand on it. Her mother stood there and looked at me. Jonah did too. Graciously, I pulled a move that even Emily Post would've cheered. "Jonah, let the girl use the swing please," I said, placing Abbey in her swing and hoisting Jonah to my hip. I figured that the mother would urge her daughter to go to the bigger swings so I wouldn't have to hold Jonah, who was now squirming and crying, "Swing, swing!"
But she didn't. She said nothing to me, not even a word of thanks, and put her daughter into the seat while my son howled. I was able to get about a minute of swinging in before Jonah—all of 20 months old at that time—combusted. I had to take both him and Abbey to another part of the park to wait for the second swing to open up. To my chagrin, the mom let her daughter spend well over half an hour on the swing. Later, as I was struggling to get my now screaming children into their car seats to go home, the woman walked by my car, her daughter skipping happily beside her. She's not the only parent who has driven me to be overprotective of my kids on the playground. I've seen parents allow their older children to run amok on equipment designed for tots. I've seen parents sip lattes while their 10-year-old tramples on my one-year-old who's digging in the sandbox. I've seen an eight-year-old push a toy lawnmower down a slide, running over a small girl at the bottom. In every case, the parents never said a thing.
True, I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that they can have everything they want whenever they want it. And I won't allow them to push smaller kids around. When they develop some degree of rationality—at about age 30—I will explain the concepts of taking turns and patience. But until then, I'm not giving up the swings.