One warm day, I took my 2-year old son to a downtown playground. This particular playground was small, but it had one large metal slide that many kids were going down.
My son and I were no strangers to playgrounds. We took advantage of them during the Pandemic. We’ve been to many in all different neighborhoods.
The platform to reach the top of the slide was steeper than normal stairs, but my son was doing his best to tottle to the top. However, I still hovered over him to ensure that he was able to go down the slide.
After doing this a few times, I sheepishly noticed something. I was the only mom doing this despite the fact the other kids my son’s age and, perhaps even younger, were all going down this slide without a parent being with them every step of the way.
I also noticed something else. Although there was no orderly line and there appeared to be some tossling among the kids, everyone eventually got a chance to go down the slide because some of the older kids had the younger kids’ backs, including my son’s. These kids were clearly well versed in the art of playing without constant parent supervision. I was impressed.
I took a step back and stood somewhat near the other moms who were engrossed in conversation.
I started to become intrigued by the cultural dynamics of this playground and all playgrounds for that matter. As a white, American mom to a biracial son (half Black, half white), I am used to mostly white playgrounds where the parents stand close by to keep a watchful eye on their kids in order to ensure that there is fair turn-taking and to resolve conflict the moment it shows up.
This playground was different. It was mostly children and moms of color who were speaking a variety of languages. Upon first glance, an outsider might make the ignorant assumption that these moms were being neglectful, and the kids were trouble who never learned proper turn-taking skills. But under a more critical lens, there was a strong sense of community fostered among both the parents and kids. I loved it.
And that’s when I vowed to raise a more culturally competent kid.
Lauren Barrett is a multi-passionate mom working to help all parents become their best selves and build positive relationships with their kids through mindful parenting. She has a degree in deaf education and a Master’s in Reading Education. She is a high school teacher of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing by day, a cross country coach by the afternoon, a writer/author by her son's nap times, and a full time mom to an amazing preschooler. Lauren is a 3x author of the Add One-A-Day 30 Day Challenge, children's book, Henry's Hiccups, and parenting guide Now What? Mindful Checklists for Life's Hard Parenting Moments, a blogger at Lauren Barrett Writes, and has been published on sites like A Fine Parent, Pregnant Chicken, Pop Sugar, Her View From Home, and Scary Mommy. She loves her faith, running, visiting MLB stadiums with her husband, chocolate, scrapbooking, pretending she would actually do well on the Amazing Race, re-watching The Office, listening to Bobby Bones, and helping out all moms. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, James, and son, Henry. Follow her on Instagram at @laurenbarrettwrites, and get her free guide on what to do during the middle of a tantrum.
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