Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Nice Playground = Annoying Parents?

The Chronicle's baby blog had a post last week about the best playgrounds in the Bay Area.

Their picks:
1. Koret Children's Quarter (San Francisco)
2. Magic Mountain Playground at Coyote Point (Burlingame)
3. Adventure Playground (Berkeley)
4. Julius Kahn Playground (San Francisco)
5. Giorgi Park playground (Healdsburg)

To select the playgrounds, they eliminated any parks that charge admission. Other criteria: "Run-down bathrooms were a negative. Nice views, big trees, proximity to a carousel and concrete slides were positives."

I can't really find fault with their picks (I've actually never been to any of these places), though I do think there's something that isn't captured here: the other parents at the playgrounds.

I'll be honest: At nice playgrounds, the dads tend to make me look bad. They're always fully engaged in their kids' activities. They're encouraging the children to grow and learn. And they're usually teaching them about three languages at the same time.

Conversely, when I take Elliot to parks in SoMa or the Civic Center (where the views are scarce, the graffiti rampant and the bathrooms are most definitely "run-down"), it's pretty easy to compete with the other dads. Often, they don't exist. And if they are there, they're on the phone with their bookies.

That's the kind of environment I prefer — it makes me look awesome. Maybe I'm not always as engaged as I should be. Maybe I check my BlackBerry occasionally. But it's not like I've ever abandoned Elliot so I could go hotbox my Honda Civic across the street.

This goes back to a broader dispute that I've had with Kelly. She compares me with the dads in our social circle (that's tough competition!). I would prefer to be compared against all dads in the world, including countries with weak child-labor laws. Actually, I would prefer to be compared against all dads that have ever lived in human history. By that measure, I'm pretty sure I'm in the top 0.1 percent of dads.

Unless I lose points for never teaching Elliot how to hunt or gather berries — then I'm screwed.