Once upon a time, there was a mom and a little boy named Huck. Huck loved playing with his mom, and his mom loved playing with him. Sometimes, Huck liked exploring on his own, and sometimes, his mom liked to read and talk to friends and check Facebook on her phone. Huck and his mom lived in a wonderful neighborhood with parks and pools and friendly people to play with, and they were happy.
On Monday, Huck and his mom went to the park. They were playing “Baby & Mommy T-Rex.” Huck curled up in a ball on the ground and pretended to hatch, while the mom oohed and aahed and mustered up some enthusiasm for the hatching T-Rex egg. Then, Huck and his mom climbed up and down the ladders and slides, chasing imaginary herbivores and generally having a pretty fun time.
Another mom was at the park, sitting next to her mom friend. “This is why kids are so entitled these days,” she muttered with an eye roll. “Why can’t that lady just let her kid be a kid? He’s never going to learn with her just hovering over him all the time.”
Huck’s mom felt her cheeks burn with shame. She and Huck walked home the long way.
On Tuesday, Huck and his mom went back to the park. This time, the mom sat on the park bench with a book she was ten pages away from finishing and let Huck loose on the playground equipment. She didn’t want to be judged for hovering. “Have fun, sweetie,” she said with a hug and a kiss before settling down. Huck scampered away and headed toward a curved metal ladder that he had successfully climbed approximately 73 times prior to today’s park trip. Before the mom even opened the book, Huck had managed to slip off the side of the ladder. Screaming ensued.
Another mom was nearby, pushing her daughter on the swings. “Oh my God! Is he okay?” she fretted. Then she turned to her friend, standing by her side, and muttered under her breath, “Why wasn’t she watching him? That’s how kids get hurt.”
Huck’s mom was overcome by embarrassment, fear and worry. She kissed Huck’s boo-boo, wrapped him in her arms, and slinked away down the sidewalk toward her house.
On Wednesday, Huck and his mom once again made their way to the neighborhood park. It was a busy day, with lots of kids playing. Huck’s mom wanted to let Huck be a kid, but wanted to make sure he was safe, too. Huck saw a boy of similar age playing on the bouncey grasshopper toy and hobbled over to play with him. “Remember to stay away from the ladder, sweetie,” Huck’s mom reminded him, before moving over to the ladder in question to stand guard. Huck started playing with the other little boy, and the other little boy’s mom started talking to him.
A phone rang, and the other little boy’s mom answered it. “Oh hey! … Yeah, just at the park with Johnny. Another little boy just attached himself to me. So I’m watching other people’s kids, as usual! … I know, so annoying, right? So lazy! … Yeah, okay, see you at 3.”
Awkward, ashamed and fed up, Huck’s mom went to the grasshopper and started playing with him. She never made eye contact with the other kid’s mom, and thankfully, Huck lost interest in the kid and the grasshopper, and she and Huck were able to creep away toward home after a short time.
Thursday was a beautiful day. Dressed in shorts for the first time the entire year, Huck and his mom headed toward the park with a lovingly packed picnic lunch of grapes, pretzels and hummus. They spent the first 20 minutes playing together on the playground, and then settled down on the slightly damp grass to eat some snacks. With a full and happy belly, Huck hugged his mom and then ran away toward the twirly slide to join another little girl. Huck’s mom put away the snacks and quickly checked her phone for messages. As she did, she overheard a few nuggets of conversation between the other moms and dads at the park.
“I was looking forward to catching up with you, Cathy, but now Lucy is going to want me to play with her. Can you say, ‘helicopter mom?’”
“I thought grapes were a choking hazard.”
“I wanted to wear shorts today, too, but it’s still too cold for that, don’t you think?”
“Ugh, another mom glued to her phone while her kid is playing. What’s so important that she can’t watch her child?”
Huck stood up on the top platform of the playground and yelled, “Mommy! Mommy! Watch this!” Then, he barreled down the bumpy slide with a giggle, and his mom ran over to meet him at the bottom with a kiss. They played together for a while, and then they headed home.
The moral of the story?
People are going to judge you, no matter what you do. You might as well do what you want.