Playground Anxiety

It's May and the sun is finally starting to shine. We've picked up our natural bug spray and our nonchemical sunscreen and in a few weeks, I'll remember how difficult it is dealing with toddlers and sunscreen. But what I've already remembered, after doing it only once is that I hate playgrounds.

May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, so its a perfect time to talk about my Playground Anxiety. I've been dealing with anxiety for most of my life, but it's really gotten the best of me since having babies. Thankfully, I have a wonderful therapist and a pocket full of skills to help me manage it.

But the playground, where I spend most of my days, is a breeding ground for my intrusive thoughts.

I should probably throw a little trigger warning here.

I'm sure I'm not alone. Despite all the parents and caregivers who can chitchat and look at their phones, there must be other ones like me who see the potential for fatal injuries on every ladder and wiggly bridge. Don't get me started on swings. Or all of the openings in the railings, ten feet off of the ground.

It blows my mind that more children don't die or at least get traumatic brain injuries on playgrounds every day.

I try not to hover and I do a mostly good job. But I am always going back and forth from one kid to the other making sure they're okay. And I probably remind them more than I need to that we only go down slides on our bums and to not play by the swings.

The whole time, I'm thinking about all of the possible ways they could hurt themselves. I'm always remembering a story that my Aunt used to tell us about a child she grew up with who ran by the swings and got hit in the head by a swinging kid. I'm thinking of the time that Judah slipped next to one of those openings in a railing and I had to grab him, while wearing 3 week old Maple in a ring sling. I hear my mother saying "that's a Children's Hospital special" as I watch every see-saw and spinny ride on thingy.

And after about five minutes, once I've captured my obligatory slide or swing boomerang for instagram, I'm ready to go. But my children are not. They are never ready to go, unless we're at the park that has animals that I can bribe them with. There is usually a tantrum, or two, and I don't have my usual reserve of patience after all the fretting I've done. So I end up raising my voice and getting some judgey looks from the other moms.

Anybody else feel like this on the playground? Just me?

Like most things I feel strongly about, I think anxiety is something that needs to be normalized. Most of us have it. A lot of mothers get it postpartum. I didn't even know Postpartum Anxiety was a thing before having babies. If we're open with each other, then we can support each other. Raising children is isolating enough as it is without feeling like we're alone in our fears.