What’s the Rush? (a rant of sorts…)

Our daily rhythm involves spending an hour at the park between morning and noon naps.  Before Zach was mobile, I would lay out a blanket on the grass and he would be content rolling, playing with toys, and watching the other children.  I would push him on the swing for a few minutes, which he loves, but for the most part we would just hang out on the grass and Zach would do his thing happily while I chatted with other care givers (i.e. nannies and grandparents).

Zach has recently started wanting to pull up to a standing position and crawl up steps, and the best place to do this (outside of his movement area at home) is the toddler play structure at our local park.  I put him down on the sand near the structure and get out of the way so he can crawl, explore, pull up, tumble (safely, of course) and yes, even cry when he’s frustrated.  His concentration and determination are a joy for me to witness, and his occasional tumbles and ensuing complaints are an opportunity for me to “sportscast” what happened, let him know that I’m standing by him as he works, and offer vocabulary so he can eventually identify his feelings.

Sadly, this fascinating experience has been marred by three other caretakers, who seem to not understand my hands-off approach.  There’s a nanny who tells me I should do what she did with her charge: “teach” him to climb up the structure by holding and guiding his body until he’s able to do so on his own.  Another nanny seems to think children do well with constant noise and chatter, so she screeches and blathers to all the babies on the playground, and in so doing messes up Zach’s concentration.  But the one who drives me nuts is the grandfather who can’t bear to hear Zach cry.  If my son cries out from frustration or in response to a harmless tumble in the sand, he’ll immediately run over and give him a toy to make him stop crying.  One time, he even half-jokingly asked if I was Zach’s step-mom instead of his real mom, because I didn’t go into panic mode every time my baby took a tumble in the sand.

I’m pretty sure most parents at one time or another have formed opinions on the way other parents educate their kids.  I do it in my head all the time, I must admit, but I don’t go around voicing my opinion (unless someone asks what I would do from a Montessori perspective).  I would love to give a piece of my mind to the mom who threatens to hit her two-year old or the nanny who keeps telling her charge that he’s going to fall and break a leg.  But I don’t…

I have a dear friend who has sworn off going to playgrounds because she couldn’t deal with other parents helicoptering over her well-behaved and independent little girls.  I’m not at that point – yet – but I am starting to feel her pain.   I try to point out to the caretakers that I believe in letting the child develop at his own pace and take ownership of his successes and failures.  I try to explain that when Zach cries, it’s not because he’s in pain but because he’s expressing his frustration, which he has every right to do.  I ask them: What’s the rush?  They never seem to have an answer to that one…

Dear readers, have you had similar experiences?  If so, how do you handle them?