The playground should be a sanctuary

On weekdays our local playground is crowded and loud.  That’s actually a good thing.  More kids to play with, more of my friends there.  And most importantly, if there’s a big-mouthed parent swearing his or her head off, it gets lost in the cacophony.

But on weekends, the playground is mostly empty.  What everybody else is doing there becomes a lot more noticeable when there are only four or five other people.

Yesterday my kids made friends with the only other two kids there (aside from a toddler sticking with her dad) while I sat on my bench with my paper.  I can tune out just about every one of the noises that kids make, but one thing I can’t tune out is adult conversation, especially when it’s inappropriate for the situation.  These two particular adults – the ones there taking care of my kids’ new friends – were swearing their heads off.  Every third or fourth word was either the F word or the N word.  I can’t tune that out.  I gave them a frown every so often, but either they weren’t noticing me or didn’t care.  I sat there and tried not to stew.

I swear.  My husband swears.  We try hard not to do it around our kids, and are mostly successful.  I don’t care if a parent drops a swear word now and then, my kids have heard them all.  But what these two men were doing was different.  This was just the way they talked, probably all the time (I mean, if you’re not cleaning it up in a playground, then I think it’s a safe assumption that that’s just how you talk, right?).  They didn’t seem to think that there was anything wrong with spewing that kind of filth in a place for kids.  I shouldn’t have been surprised at all when one of them started smoking (which is illegal in NYC playgrounds).

We live in Brooklyn, my kids hear bad language all the time.  And while I wish that the people in the rest of our neighborhood would clean up their acts around kids, I know it’s not my right to ask for that.  But in a playground?  Playgrounds should be free of filth.  Playgrounds should be sanctuaries for kids, where they’re able to play and navigate the world of being young, and not have to deal with inappropriate behavior from adults.

So why didn’t I say something?  Because honestly, I was afraid of getting my ass kicked.  If these guys had no trouble acting like that around kids, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that they wouldn’t take very kindly to me asking them, respectfully, to please watch their language in the playground.  At the very least they probably would have told me to fuck off.

Oops, look at that, I swore.  It happens.  But I try to choose appropriate places.  Anyone who doesn’t like what I have to say is free to not read my blog or my twitter stream.  My choices at the playground were limited to ignoring the men (which was hard, and which I know for a fact my kids weren’t doing), saying something to them and possibly getting attacked verbally or physically, or leaving.  That last one doesn’t seem fair to my kids.

I can’t help but think that if any of my friends had been there – not even necessarily to back me up, but just as witnesses – I might have said something.  I’m not timid, despite putting up with bad behavior sometimes and regretting it later.  But I am conscious of the fact that no matter how I talked to those men, no matter how respectful I tried to be, there’s still a good chance I would have been seen as a prissy girl butting in to their business, and it might not have ended well.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage.


  1. says

    I hate when parents don’t consider the kids who are within earshot.

    I had a situation at the pool last week. I was sitting with my daughter waiting for my son to finish swim practice. A group of tweens were sitting next to me playing cards. The language from the tweens started out fine, but escalated from the d-word, to b-s, to the s-word, to I think the f-word. There were little kids near them, parents too. I waited, thought about saying something, but didn’t. The tweens stopped swearing…perhaps one saw my face. Next time, I will say something. I know the tweens were probably testing their vocabulary by one-upping each other, but it is still not acceptable for children to swear in public.

  2. says

    @MusingsfromMe/Jill – Sometimes I think people just don’t realize what they’re doing. It’s happened to me on occasion. But the way these guys were talking, I didn’t think saying anything would help…or maybe I was just being a chicken? I think there’s a lot more behind it due to race and class and our neighborhood, because if it had been a couple of tweens at a pool I think I would have said something.

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