Let me explain. In the playground next to my house (designed for kids aged 2-5), there are several slides, all connected to one jungle gym. One regular yellow slide, two that are connected side by side and one inside a tunnel. Years ago, I remember watching my then 2-year-old Monkey wait to slide down while another kid climbed up the slippery surface, blocking Monkey's way, when his mother came and said, "Joey, we don't climb up slides" and pulled him off. Wait, what? Kids aren't supposed to climb up the slide? Ever? But it's fun! It's challenging! It provides a sense of accomplishment! But since my own child was waiting his turn to slide down, I realized it's not the climbing up that causes trouble, it's the timing, and that is when the Parenting Sliding Scale kicks in.
The way other parents react to their children as the climber makes their parenting status easy to peg. Here are a few questionable scenarios: Are their kids climbing the slide, blocking it for use from 10 tots waiting at the top? Or are the kiddos sliding down at a speed known to knock toddlers over like bowling pins? Is their kid carelessly climbing on top of the slide tunnel, putting kids on the ground at risk of being crushed by 40lbs of recklessness? There are parents who quickly tell their children that their behavior is inappropriate and make them stop and/or apologize. There are parents who weakly call out, "Don't do that," or "Be careful," while returning their gaze to their phones. And then there are the parents who don't appear at all. And bingo, I know whether Munchkin and Monkey should be allowed to stay within a one- foot radius of the involved children, within a cautious ten-food radius of the kids or if we should run screaming from the playground like a child obsessed with pushing the elevator button first.
As I watch Monkey climb up slides and – sometimes – even slide down them, I learn a lot about his fellow playmates and their parents. The Parenting Sliding Scale inevitably tells me all I need to know.