Fitting In

I’ve had this post inside me for a while.

Kale and I frequently go to the playground at Moody Park, in the heart of Uptown New Westminster. He loves swinging, and if we are out and about and pass any playground with baby swings, we will stop whatever we are doing and have a go. Because life can wait while Kale has a few moments of bliss.

Moody Park itself is a place we go regularly, and in a few short weeks, a new outdoor pool will be opening. It already has a playground, a waterpark, lots of shady grass, lots of sunny grass, ball fields, soccer fields, a lacrosse box, and also a lawn bowling facility and a senior’s centre. The New Westminster Parks and Rec office is also located in Moody Park. So its a big park. There is almost always a picnic table with a crowd of pot smokers in the shady part of the park, and we generally just avoid that side. I don’t have an issue with pot smokers, but it’s not something Kale needs to be exposed to.

I have complaints about the area surrounding the playground – the planners didn’t really think too closely when they chose 1-2 ich gravel as a surround. While it provides ample drainage, it makes for incredibly hard travel by stroller. The other side has bark mulch, and while it’s certainly easier to push a stroller through bark mulch rather than gravel, it’s still a matter of pushing through rather than travelling over.

But my main complaint isn’t necessarily the setting, the nefarious goings-on, or the topography of the park. My big complaint is that I am so obviously not a part of the stroller crowd that I feel unwelcome when we go. If I’m with a friend we generally stick to ourselves. If I am by myself, we don’t stay long.

I’m 35, and a first time mom. I’m also white. I’m also middle class. I am so white bread milque toast it’s rather painful. The bulk of park users I see at Moody Park playground are new-to-Canada, and often either incredibly young at say, 20, or are a grandparent caregiver at 55+. Most people are not speaking English, and I’ve joked to friends that the Russian Mafia owns Moody Park because of the frequency in which I hear Eastern European languages being spoken.

It’s important to me that Kale grows up in as diverse a culture as I can find – I grew up in a town with one South Asian family, and one Japanese family and a handful of First Nations kids. As a result, when I moved to the Lower Mainland at the tender age of 20, I was in for a huge culture shock and it took me years to be comfortable with people from other backgrounds. So I’d like Kale to understand that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, and that it’s the person inside that matters. I have no issue with Kale disliking a person because they are a jerk, or too loud, or too quiet, or too mean, or whatever. But there is no good reason to dislike someone because they aren’t like we are.

So I have a hard time at the Moody Park playground, because I’m not a typical member of the Stroller Brigade. I want to go to the playground and let him experience the things he loves best – outdoors, wind, swinging – and let him experience things he won’t get at home – accents, large groups of kids, and people that don’t look like us. But I have such a hard time when I go and I’m met with suspicious, icy stares. Or worse, when people avoid my tentative smile and won’t make eye contact.

Sometimes I find fitting in natural and simple, and just by being parents or caregivers of children, it’s easy to have something to talk about. But there are others, like at the playground, when I feel left out of the crowd. And we can’t always stay home and play in the toilet.

From Kale 9-12 months
9 years ago

3 Comments

  1. What a beautiful child your Kale is 🙂 and how wonderful that you have your priorities straight – I love the sentence “because life can wait while Kale has a few moments of bliss.”

    I can relate to your story about Moody Park. I too had my son when I was 35. We lived in a very ethnic area of Vancouver at the time and the little park I would take him to to play was often full of glass and needles and older gentlemen squatting in the grass, spitting and playing fierce games of cards. The few times there were women in the park, I was met with what I thought were icy stares. Ours was one of the few white families in our neighbourhood.

    I came from Saskatchewan via Alberta, also bastions of red-neckedness and white bread milque toast sorts. It was hard to be in multi-ethnic world when that was not my origins. One thing that helped me was to consider how hard it must be to be a new Canadian. And to remember that body language from one race to another doesn’t necessarily translate well.

    It was a lonely time as no one I knew had young children and many of the Mother’s groups I tried were filled with young women I had nothing in common with. Two things happened… my son and I became incredibly close – a closeness that remains to this day (he is now 19). It also taught me how to be alone with myself in the world and not feel uncomfortable. Many times I had to force myself to – in the language of dog trainers – sit and stay 🙂

    Being a Mom is a never ending series of lessons and challenges, isn’t it? I read your blog entries all the time and I admire you and your husband so much. PS…. It was a great picture of you and Kyle in the paper recently and I wish you the best at your new job with the Farmers Market!

    Cheers!

    Laurie

  2. I too wonder what it is about New Westminster that attracts the Russians and Ukranians. I think it is great. I love me some ruskies but I am just curious.

    Wear clothing with hold lame details, don’t forget the lipgloss and get some BIG sunglasses. You will fit right in.

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