Sunny. Fifty degrees. Light breeze. Weekend. Every parent with a child born within the last 12 months emerged from a long winter bunkered down in their homes. Pale skin saw the light of day for the first time in months. And Olive spent two days at the playground.
No, there isn't a lot that Olive can do at playgrounds, you know, since she can't walk, but she can go on swings!
What I learned spending a couple hours watching Olive at two different playgrounds is that there is a delicate dance that parents play when interacting with each other at playgrounds. You see, we never actually talk to each other. Well, we don't talk to another parent without first talking THROUGH our child. If parents just walked around saying hi to eachother, asking how the day was going, saying things like "cute kid!" or "Oh, what is your daughter's name?" it would basically turn the playground into one big, creepy, depressing swingers club...with slides.
Here is an example of how it works. Your child is on a swing. She stares over at the child on the swing next to her. Both parents, dutifully pushing their kids, notice this as well. But they don't say hello. They don't ask how the other is doing or comment on the weather. One finally looks at their child and says:
"Can you say hello? Can you say hello to the little baby next you you?"
No, the child can't say hello. Your child is 11 months old, and does not know how to use words yet. But the other parent just plays along. They look at THEIR child and say:
"Honey, can you smile at the cute baby? Isn't she a cute baby?"
And the conversation continues like this. Each parents using the pint-sized, non-vocal avatars to converse.
"What a cute little baby!"
"Can you say thank you? Can you say thank you to the cute little baby?"
"Are you having fun in this nice weather?"
"It IS beautiful weather, isn's it?"
"Can you ask the baby's name, honey?"
"Can you say your name?"
And so on and so forth.
The REALLY awkward moment comes when the child wants to get out of the swing and do something else. You try to keep the conversation going through the babies.
"Do you want to go somewhere else? Can you say bye-bye? Say bye bye"
"Say bye bye to the cute baby."
At some point though, you catch the other parent's eye and then you actually need to say something.
"Um, have a good one."
"Yeah, you too. Cute kid."
And so it continues. At the swings. At the slide. In the sand box.