The social politics of the park

When I was small, I looked at going to the park as an adventure.  Now that I am a mom, the park is an ideal place to let my children run free while I people watch.  My people watching is quite limited now that I have a son.  My son doesn’t seem to understand that the park is a place to play, not a place to somehow end up in the hospital. There are times that my son doesn’t want to try to jump off of everything and in those very brief moments, I take the time to observe what is going on around me.  There are about 4 types of mothers who frequent the park:

The Helicopter Mom:  this is the type of mother who hovers around their child.  This mommy is anxious about EVERYTHING and one is left to wonder why she even brings her children to the park in the first place.

The iPhone Mom:  this is the mom that is constantly talking, texting, or checking her Facebook.  This mommy never puts her phone down even when her son is screaming from the top of his lungs for her to pay attention to him jumping off of something he isn’t supposed to.

The People Watcher Mom: this is the mom who sits on the bench with one eye on her children and the other on the other moms with a smirk on her face. This mommy really and truly comes to the park to listen to conversations to either put on her blog or call her friends about when she gets in the car.

The Involved Mom: this is the mom you see on the commercials.  This mommy is fully engaged in her children.  She doesn’t hover, but she is close by and willing to play with her children at any moment.  This mommy actually came to the park to have fun.

Obviously, I am the “People Watcher Mom” or PWM and I do it shamelessly. The problem with being a PWM is that there is always someone who wants to sit next to you on your bench in the shade and strike up a good ole conversation. Today, a woman I will call Ms. Bev sat next to me while I attempted to people watch and never shut up.

Ms. Bev was a Black woman like myself.  I believe she must have been in her mid-50s and originally from Georgia. She was at the park with her two grandsons and had moved to California about 20 years ago.  I learned all about Ms. Bev’s life in about 10 minutes and it really felt good talking to her.  She reminded of that good ole southern hospitality that I have been missing down here.  Because Ms. Bev seemed so nice, I thought it would be smart to ask her about the schools, neighborhoods, and overall feel of the city.  She did not disappoint in letting me know the run down and of course, she had to let me know that there weren’t too many of “us” in these parts. The funny thing is that she turned to me and looked me in my eye and said, “you don’t want to live by Black people do you?”, umm…how does one answer this type of question? I mean, it would be nice to live by some Black people, but is it a requirement?…not really. I just kind of looked at her because that question was rhetorical, but to my surprise, she asked me again if I wanted to live by all Black people and I told her that I would like to live by all people.  Well, Ms. Bev informed me that I did not want to live by Black people and to stay as far away from them as I could.  I was a little shocked by this exchange and then asked her if there were Black neighborhoods in the city and she gave me the side-eye and told me yes, but that I don’t want to go over to those parts.

***At this point, I feel it is my responsibility to give a full disclaimer of exactly where I am from. I am originally from South Central Los Angeles. I take great offense to people saying “those parts”.  I come from “those parts”.  My grandmother still lives in “those parts” and a ton of great things come from “those parts”.  It kills me sometimes when people change their zip code and somehow think it is okay to look down on others.***

After the exchange with Ms. Bev, I got up from my seat on the bench and had my children sit down for some lunch.  There was nothing else to say to Ms. Bev and with her being my elder it was my duty to respect her age and walk away.  After lunch, the kids still wanted to play and the park seemed to come alive. My daughter found a nice little girl to play with and my son played on the playground equipment pretending to be a pirate. The mother of the little girl my daughter was playing with and I struck up a conversation and I instantly liked her.

I felt like violins were being played and rainbows were shining.  Could this lady be a new found friend? It was totally kismet.  She gave me the scoop on the schools. She told me about a ballet class I could get my daughter into. I talked to her about me being Paleo, which I was impressed that she already knew about and was following.  She even told me about her trip to Harlem. This lady from California spent a week in Harlem, NY and totally loved it.  Our daughters were playing well together. I just new this lady was going to be my very first mommy friend in California. Did I mention that she is White and never told me to stay away from Black people.  Hmm…chew on that for a second.

I wish I could write at this point that we are friends, but the truth is, I never asked her for her number and she never asked for mine. The social politics of the whole mommy friendship and park thing is something I have never really mastered.  Usually, it is always the other mom who asks me for my number and although she did linger a little with the goodbyes, I just couldn’t bring myself to ask her for her number.  The whole thing always feels like dating. I should have asked her for her number though because she was much more pleasant to me than Ms. Bev and I got the sense that she was having the same problem as me with finding real genuine people out here. Hopefully, I will see her again.  This place isn’t that big.


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