Monday, June 21, 2010

Memo to the insane mom on the playground: The Grape sees you when you act like a lunatic.

The Little Grape loves nothing more than the swings at the Clarendon Street Playground. I suspect they're his preferred swings because the people watching possibilities far exceed those at other local kid parks. Mostly he likes to see the bigger kids running around, doing things he can only dream of when bundled in his sleep sack. Once in a while, though, we're treated to a display of insane parental behavior worth sharing here.

A Chanel-wearing mommy, her toddler daughter and infant son and their nanny arrived at the playground just as The Grape had gotten on the swing. The mother trotted off to the other end of the park with the daughter. The nanny headed for the empty swing next to The Grape with the baby boy, who was about eight months old. "He needs padding!" Chanel mom shrieked from across the sandbox. Nanny removed baby boy from the swing, retrieved a blanket from their stroller, folded it into the swing and reinstalled the kid on his parentally mandated makeshift upholstery. The nanny started to push her charge on the swing. All should have been right in the world.

But no.

The mommy came running - literally running - from the other end of the playground and proceeded to berate the nanny for placing the baby on a pink blanket. "He has a blue one!" She lectured. The nanny looked nonplussed. "People are going to think he's a girl!" the mother hissed. The nanny and I exchanged a glance that said, unlikely. The child in question was dressed like a miniature day laborer, and he looked much more fazed by his mom's hysterics than by his rose colored cushion.

The Grape and I watched as the nanny continued to push the baby on the swings. She wore the expression of someone who had dealt with nonsensical outbursts by her employer many times before. The mother rummaged in the stroller for a more masculine blanket, failed to produce one, stomped back to the swings and announced that she was going home to get his blanket, so the nanny should keep an eye on both children during her absence.

Of the eighteen or so things wrong with what transpired that morning, a few points stick out.

First, it's utterly lame to scream at your sitter in public over anything. Ever. I don't care how bad a day you're having. Don't tear into your employees in front of me. It's doubly lame to screech at your sitter in public, and three feet away from various kids, over something inconsequential. I hope that her sitter is looking for a new job. There must be better gigs out there.

Second, I'm not sure why the mom was so concerned with protecting her son's masculine sensibilities. Maybe she hadn't read this month's Atlantic, in which Hannah Rosin writes that new economy employers hire more women than men for management roles, and that men who want to stay competitive in the job market would do well to get in touch with their feminine sides.

But all joking (and scholarly articles) aside, it troubles me that a modern mother, especially one with a daughter, chooses to reinforce the concept that pink is for girls, which means it's inferior and therefore not good enough for her son. Let's focus here: The nanny didn't put the kid in a dress, or some really girlie hat with daisies on it; she sat him on a blanket that was mostly hidden in a swing. The child will be no more macho or effeminate because of the color of things upon which he sat during infancy.

I'd wager everything pink in my own wardrobe (and that's a significant amount of stuff) that the mom wouldn't have reacted nearly as violently if the nanny had placed her daughter on a blue blanket.

But I digress. It's a shame the woman was too apoplectic about the color of a piece of fabric to stick around and see that her eight-month-old was having the time of his little life at the park.

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