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PSA: Kids Need Earmuffs at Playgrounds

Call me cranky and just plain old, but I'm sick and tired of the verbal environments in our local play spaces.

"F--- you!"

"No, f--- you!"

"No, f--- you!"

"No, girl, f--- you!"

And so it went, for a solid two minutes, back and forth. I stood by the ramp to the big climber on the Buddy Attick Park playground, and simply watched this scintillating and quite loud conversation being had on a picnic table next to the basketball court. Due to the surprising early dose of spring that afternoon, the area was full of folks soaking in the warm air, yet no one else seemed to even notice the verbal sparring going on at the table.

I glared at the two teenagers who either didn't care who heard them or were stupid enough to not realize that they sat 20 feet away from a playground full of young children, but I admit that I felt too intimidated to say anything. Wimpy, I know, but unfortunately, I've had my share of negative experiences in our area when I've done so in the past, and I simply wasn't in the mood to be part of a public spectacle.

Now, don't get me wrong here, because anyone reading this who knows me personally knows that I have to admit to a certain affinity for profanity. Yup, that's right- I'm not taking any sort of "No one should ever use swear words" stance here. I'm more of a "there's a time and place" kind of gal myself.

The irony for me that afternoon was that I had vetoed a trip to one of our neighborhood playgrounds and suggested heading to Buddy Attick instead, with the mindset that it would be more family-friendly. My observations in our own neighborhood have been that the after school hours turn our playgrounds into a hanging out space for high school students. As a result, the environment is much more "mature" than I prefer for my children. I anticipated many more families out at Buddy Attick that afternoon, creating a more appropriate overall feeling.

Unfortunately, what I experienced reflected what I'm observing everywhere I go where there are even small numbers of teenagers together. Even while playing in our own yard, my children are subjected to the loud profane language of passersby in the after school hours. In fact, just last week, when my son looked in the direction of the shouted cursing, the "ladies" involved began to swear directly at him. What the *bleep*?!

Has it always been like this? I can remember being a teenager hanging out at the mall with my friends, most likely being obnoxious to anyone over the age of 20, but while I had a spicy language that was typical of the average adolescent, I knew when it was just not kosher to break it out. Where is this awareness now?

So here's my public plea to all local youth — how about you look around you before you start shouting obscenities to your pals when you're out and about in public? Plenty of words exist in our language for you to get your point across, trust me, I've been in countless frustrating situations in both classroom and home settings where I've expressed myself sans swearing.

When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted to be heard, to have my opinion on issues in my own world asked for and respected. I imagine that's a universal feeling for adolescents all over. Here's a tip from someone who's been there — conduct yourself respectfully, especially in public, and perhaps you'll get that respect you're craving in return.

Dawn may reside in Greenbelt in real life, but online she lives at her blog, my thoughts exactly, where she chatters on about her funny kids, her NPR obsession and plenty of other randomness. She can also be found at 5 Minutes for Books, reviewing everything from contemporary fiction to children's literature. 

Christine Doran February 22, 2011 at 01:16 PM
Yes, yes, and yes. Sadly, I fear the teenage culprits are probably not reading Patch. But it's a good reminder to everyone to please look around before letting loose.
Dawn Mooney February 22, 2011 at 01:29 PM
Yes, you're probably correct, but maybe some parents of teenagers are?? I don't know, I fear that I sound like an out-of-touch, naive person when I complain about this, but it certainly seems like it's only getting worse everywhere I go with the kids.
Deborah Coleman February 22, 2011 at 01:36 PM
I totally agreee; however, I'm finding it's not just teenagers but kids as young as ten, eleven and twelve also. Obviously, kids today aren't getting the home training they need like we did when we were young. And to think, they are supposed to be our future leaders.
Amy Headley February 22, 2011 at 03:48 PM
Sadly we rarely use the little playground by our court for this exact reason. There's a group of kids, mostly 1 family, but a few others, who intimidate any other kids who try to play there. Once the mom even confronted my son, who has special needs (Asperger's) and he took it really hard like he was the problem. On occasion I'll go and be the mean mom, like hey everyone takes a turn on that. Is that really mean? More like the enforcer. But it's exhausting and depressing, and just not worth it.
Dawn Mooney February 22, 2011 at 04:23 PM
It kills me to hear such young kids talking like that!
Dawn Mooney February 22, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Don't you just feel cheated? It doesn't seem right. And I completely understand about being the "mean mom," but the thing that really bugs me is that I don't want to accompany my ten year old to the playground, you know? He's old enough to go on his own, but I'm not always pleased by what he's probably going to be exposed to when he's there. With my younger kids, I get so ticked off when our only reasonable option seems to be to go somewhere else!
J. Doe February 22, 2011 at 05:40 PM
I agree with Deborah that I have also seen the problem in VERY young kids. In the older kids, I have also seen issues with them being rather fresh and physical with one another, which I don't want to see and certainly don't want my little one to see either. I have confronted some of the teens/pre-teens before and luckily they straightened up after something was said to them and were pretty cool. I honestly think most of these kids today have NO IDEA what they are doing is rude, ignorant and reflects badly on them. If you talk to them like adults and treat them with respect, I think they will start to get the picture. If however the problems persists, I would not hesitate to call the Police in an instant. Once you have tried to communicate like an adult, they have no excuse and maybe some flashing lights will straighten them up.
Dawn Mooney February 22, 2011 at 10:15 PM
I'm glad you've had more positive experiences than I have in your attempts to ask kids to watch their language... unfortunately, my attempts in the past have been met with more cursing, lovely racial slurs and more of a scene than we were being submitted to in the first place!
Zinna February 22, 2011 at 11:40 PM
I don't think these kids are our future leaders. These kids are our future followers. I sincerely believe our future leaders are being raised better.
Dawn Mooney February 23, 2011 at 12:32 AM
I like that, Zinna!!
Catherine A. Courchaine March 01, 2011 at 03:15 PM
I would just like to say that when someone out there is swearing his or her little heads off and then turns to me and says "excuse my language" my response " there is no excuse for your language" and so "no I don't excuse it." Enough said!!!

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