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After the longest winter on the planet, anyone with a child
in Chicago is racing to spend time in the great outdoors again. I myself am back on the park circuit,
mingling among other moms, dads, nannies, and other caregivers who all look as
relieved as I am to finally be out of the house.
Now that I’m back in the greater social world of my
neighborhood, I can see how I’ve evolved over the past few months. I’m not the same woman I was when I scuttled
into the house to hibernate during the polar vortex. I’m different. I’ve grown.
Turns out, I’m still judge-y, but now I am judging totally
different people than I used to. I used
to tsk tsk parents and nannies whose
heads were buried in their phones, or heaven forbid, their Kindles. My inner sanctimonious school marm thought it
was outrageous that someone who was
ostensibly watching a minor child could, in good conscience, also scroll
through Facebook or check email or pin recipes on Pinterest. I recall a time that I had to bite my tongue
when I saw one nanny deep in Fifty Shades
of Grey, while the little kid she was “watching” terrorized the entire park
with a water gun.
Every time I used to see an absentee caregiver, my mind
would race, a parade of horrible questions plaguing me. What if
he falls? What if she tries to eat dirt? What if he tries to catch a train to Vegas?
But that’s all in the past. As I’ve said, I’ve grown.
I was disoriented to find myself feeling great kinship for the parents I used to think were slackers
This year I am rolling out the scorn for the parents who
wouldn’t dare glance at their phones because they are too busy being up in
little Caitlyn’s or Jayden’s business, robbing them of the chance to work on
their social skills at the park. Where I
used to sigh at the negligent nanny whose phone conversation was more important
than helping her little charge navigate that evil spinning bowl thingy, now all
that superiority is directed squarely at the woman who helicoptered into a
negotiation between my son and hers before either of the little guys could get
a word in. And the father who stood by
the slide making sure each and every child used it properly. And the nanny who wouldn’t let her 4-year-old interact with any other children lest he pick up any germs.
I’m still plagued by thoughts that consume me, now they’re
just different thoughts. Now it’s Oh my god, she’s going to end up a social
freak if her mother doesn’t back off. Or he’s
going to end up snorting cocaine if they don’t let him just be a kid.
I admit that it’s weird to be judging the people I used to
idolize for their ability to be constantly vigilant about their child’s every
move. I was disoriented to find myself
feeling great kinship for the parents I used to think were slackers because
they deigned to check their phone or simply check out during an outing to the
park. It’s feels like switching teams—where last year I rooted for the Yankees, now I’m a diehard Red Sox fan. It’s going to take some getting used to.