Play places as “no-sorry” zones

Play places are a god-send when parents decide to take their little ones out of the house for a few hours to get some interaction with other kids, get some fresh air, or just a little change of scenery. Parks, indoor or outdoor playgrounds, gyms, and other for-children-only play places all provide that much needed location for social interaction, plus the added bonus that you don’t have to clean up after the mess your kids make while they play. No need for the destruction of your own furniture when you can let your kids climb, slide, and jump all over heavy duty “child-proof” play things.

But, here’s the catch. If you spend any amount of time in these play places, surrounded by other kids and their parents, you’ll soon realize that you spend most of your time there apologizing for your kids behavior. Yes, it is your responsibility to make sure that you kid isn’t being the bully of the playground, but is it really necessary to have to say “sorry” every time your 2 year old decides that it’s their turn on the slide and jumps in front of the 3 other kids patiently waiting in line?

The whole idea of visiting these places is so your children get some social interaction and start to learn from the things and people around them. Sharing, taking turns, playing nice, not pushing – those are all valid lessons they will *hopefully* pick up on. But why, WHY, do parents feel obligated, or guilted into feeling like their child is constantly doing things that need apologized for?

Yes, my kid probably did steal that toy. And guess what, if I saw it happen then I will use that moment, or another one of my choosing, to teach the lesson about not stealing and instead sharing the toys. But right now, I don’t want to have to turn to the other child’s parent and say “Sorry, he’s still learning about sharing.” “Sorry, she takes a while to go down the slide” “Sorry, we are still learning about taking turns.” Why should we be sorry that our children are learning lessons, learning how to play nice, learning what happens when they don’t? Why should parents have to apologize constantly for kids being kids?

I know what you’re going to say, “What about the kids who are being purposefully mean to other kids and the parents aren’t intervening?” Well, frankly, you chose to bring your kid to a place where that might happen. The way that you teach your children probably isn’t the way someone else teaches their own. That’s life. Instead of passing judgment or expecting that kid’s parents to apologize to the whole playground, why not instead move your kids to another area of the swing-set and move on. If your kid was being the mean one, would you really want to say “sorry” to every parent present? Probably not. Wouldn’t it be much nicer to have your 2 hours of playtime and be able to head home feeling like naptime will be a huge success today? Instead of being on-edge the whole 2 hours as you constantly micro-manage your child so that when they forget to wait their turn you are there to apologize for their child-like action?

It should be one of the unwritten rules that these play places are gathering spots for parents and children alike, where there is less judgement, less parent-to-parent guilt. These should be “no-sorry” zones. Let’s let parents off the hook here. Let them watch their children without feeling constantly aware of the judgment of every other parent in a 10 foot radius. Let them and their kids play without the need to apologize for every action. Play without the “sorry” around every corner.