The Perils of The Park.

When I woke up Saturday morning, Chris came to talk to me about the day’s plans.

“So it’s relatively not-too-hot outside, and it’s not supposed to rain, so I was thinking we should take the kids to the park.”

I groaned.

“The park?  It’s Saturday.  There’s going to be a birthday party going on – I guarantee it.”

I am not, in general, against birthday parties.  However, as I have mentioned before,  we live adjacent to a fancy suburb of Birmingham.  Therefore, all nearby parks are in said suburb, since we live in unincorporated Jefferson County, a county is beyond bankrupt (a story for another day) and so of course we have no parks of our own.

And when you have a birthday party at a park in a prestigious suburb in Alabama, it is nearly guaranteed to be a smock-required birthday party.

Smock in and of itself is, as I have said before, a personal choice – I know a lot of people who dearly adore their smock in the same way that one would feel about a precious Grandmother, or perhaps a cherished 15-year-old Bassett Hound (one of these smock lovers has even guest-posted here), but when you combine smock + birthday party + prestigious suburb + park, it can tend to get a bit intimidating.

But I couldn’t come up with a better idea, so I agreed to his plan.

We arrived at the park.  Proving my prophetic powers to be quite accurate, we immediately saw that the pavilion was completely Pinterested-Out with fabulous party deco, at least 30 place settings were meticulously designed on the picnic tables, and an entire side of the pavilion was overflowing with presents.

Oooooh boy.  It’s going to be a doozy.

Within a few minutes, the place was (quite literally) crawling with smock.

And running, and walking, and screaming, and playing.

Dozens of parents were running around, photographing their $100+ clad children.

Knowing that our very presence was a bother, I tried to console myself by tweeting about it.

Every mother in attendance was also in uniform: full-length maxi dresses (despite the fact that it was July in Alabama), 4-inch+ wedge heels (in which they were unsuccessfully trying to maneuver the sadistic wood-chip playground), and a significantly pregnant belly.  The latter being a fact that Chris also noticed:

I tried to stay where I belonged: on the other side of the sidewalk.  After all, I live in the county – I know my place.

Ali took Chris on an adventure through her secret park trails.  On the way back, I saw her running straight through the birthday party scene to come get me.

I groaned, knowing that she was surely messing up the utopian scene.

For the record, she wasn’t at all poorly dressed – she was wearing my favorite brand, an adorable Tea Collection outfit, that by any other standard would be quite perfect.

But Tea Collection is no smock.

IMG_3095
Noah, on the other hand, was wearing a Carter’s romper that was at least two sizes too small, giving him a very special case of Diaper Toe.

Diaper Toe
Which, on this city’s scale of acceptable children’s attire, is nearly a felony.

Children's Attire
But Ali wanted me to come see her secret trail.  Which meant that I, also, would have to cross the sidewalk.

On the way back, Noah stopped for a moment to admire an especially interesting blade of grass.

At which time, I noticed one of the moms taking a posed photo of a Smock and her Dad.

She was about 20 feet in front of Noah, but I realized that he was indeed making my tweet come true and was going to be in the backdrop of her photo unless I acted quickly.

Right as I was turning around to go back and snatch him from his undesirable location, she lowered her camera, motioned angrily for her muses to wait a moment, cocked her head in my direction, and just stared at me.

A long, hard, bore-a-hole-through-your-hypothalamus stare.

She didn’t have to say it.

I knew what she meant.

Her thoughts were loud enough.

“Please remove your Diaper-Toed County-Dwelling Blight from my photo. Immediately.”

My heart raced as I felt the condemnation of her cutting gaze.  I grabbed him up so quickly I probably added a wedgie to his list of wardrobial issues, then took off  as fast as I could – back to The Other Side of the Sidewalk.

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Comments

  1. I too live in unicorporated Jeff Co and on the wrong side of the sidewalk. I do like smock, but I’ll never be a true Smocker. We are the hand-me-down slightly stained, but maybe I can cover it us with a ribbon or something, type of Smocker. A wanna-be from the wrong side of the County.

  2. Laura Gallitz says:

    This is why we seldom venture over there! If it’s that bad for county dwellers, think about those of us from within the city limits! We’d best stay in urban territory. My kid’s unruly hair, self-selected eclectic wardrobe and disdain for smock make her, um, stand out. You’re always welcome on our side of the line!

  3. And that is when I would have been tempted to mosey over at my slowest pace, stop to examine the blade of grass with my toddler, and mosey on five minutes later. If someone wants a private party, they should go to a private park. I’ll try to avoid running in FRONT of someone who is taking a picture, but if they object to my presence in the background, let them reposition. :) Of course if she’d been polite about it, I would have happily moved on.

  4. I don’t know what a smock is but maxi dresses are a great ventilation system in the summer time. But yeah, I get your drift, even if I don’t know what a smock is.

  5. While I love smock I despise maxi dresses! Ugh! I think they’re kind of trashy but I know plenty of people who wear them & those people aren’t trashy. Just my personal preference. Also, I love the phrase “pinterested out” LOL

    • I find it increasingly hilarious how opposite our taste is. Of course, I love maxi dresses, if done right.

      We should never shop together.

      • Oh my word! I’m so sorry I used the word “trashy”! *Shame Faced*

        Just remember I love leopard print! I know people qualify that as trashy!

  6. I prefer a maxi dress myself. But only because I hate shaving my legs. Of course, those women probably have them waxed professionally… And heck no to high wedges on a playground!

  7. It’s a public park. Which means you all have just as much right to be there wearing what ever you want. Don’t let those pretentious “bleepity-bleeps” intimidate you.

  8. Stephy_B says:

    I am totally with Julie on this one- don’t they have a private park called… their back-fenced-in-fountain-clad-sodded yard?? I lol’d at the diaper toe… sometimes you just gotta go with what’s CLEAN (which is hard to come by with the 18 month old male)! Ha! He makes even a diaper toe look cute! Guess my child’s Garanimals is just completely off the scale- who cares! :)

  9. there are many things i don’t understand about the south. perhaps someday we’ll have to visit. hope you recovered alright from your smock/maxi dress/uppity up experience!

  10. Same as Eva, I don’t get many things about the South. But I think I would have felt the same as you. I would have cowered in shame thinking “maybe they have a legitimate reason?”, and then thought of a snide but snappy comeback hours later when it didn’t matter.

    • Yes, that’s where having a blog comes in handy. I ALWAYS get the last word.

      (Unless she finds me. And comments. And then I’ll be cowering in fear again.)

  11. Do they rent out the pavilion? Most public parks around here would be utterly unsuitable for a birthday party, but unless this is some kind of large park where you reserve space then where you live is somewhat irrelevant. I’d feel free to hang out in the middle of the pavilion if I wanted to, regardless of whether there were squatters.

    I think consideration for people taking pictures is nice, but in a public space you kind of need to expect to take pictures around other park users…

    Bottom line: If it’s a public park, you are all equally entitled to use the facilities. Ever read Swallows & Amazons? In a case like that, you just have to count the interlopers as ducks. Or seals, in the wintertime.

    • I think the pavilion is rented out, but we weren’t in the pavilion. Haven’t read that, but it sounds like I need to, just to understand your comment! :)

  12. Tea Collection stuff is adorable. I’ve never personally bought it, but I’ve gotten enough pieces in hand-me-downs to be inspired find their website and then spent many hours drooling over the very chic (and noticeably unsmocked) dresses.

    Also, last month I was browsing Gymboree and Adrianna *really* wanted a smocked green graham jumper from their Easter collection that was on super clearance. I think of you every time she wears it :-)

    • NICE. I hope you enjoy that Smock.

      Tea Collection has amazing sales, which is how I buy it. Get on their mailing list and like their Facebook page for the inside scoop. Not long ago, they had all their sale stuff marked down another FORTY PERCENT!! I stocked up for next year.

  13. Your posts always make me laugh out loud to myself…love the diaper toe! (I would say “LOL” if it weren’t so darn cliche…)

  14. Am I calling it the wrong thing? We’ve always called it smocked. Or is it smock?

    I’m in unincorporated JeffCo too (a long way away from the Tiny Kingdom {which is what we’ve dubbed that ‘hood}) but I will cram my kids in smocked dress or smocked short set every chance I get. Especially Hudson. He is destined to a life of khakis, tshirts and if we want to get dressy polo shirts and button ups for the REST OF HIS LIFE. If I’m going cute, I’ve got to go strong now. My window is slowly closing. {I may have even done a blog post professing my addiction to smocked clothes AND to getting my kids to match. I need help. I know.)

    Smocked lovers in unincorporated JeffCO UNITE!

    • (Sorry for the late reply – you got stuck in my spam filter. Bad spam filter!!)

      You are right – it’s really smocked. Smock is just something I like calling it.

      Enjoy that smock – perhaps you’ll start an Unincorporated JeffCo Trend!!! Maybe your smock purchases will even help stimulate our county’s economy so that one day we’ll not operate like a socialist bread line anymore!

  15. tiffany k says:

    Shoot, I was just looking at a full length maxi dress thinking it would be cute the next time I got pregnant.

    • They ARE cute – unless it’s 105 degrees outside, you’re wearing four-inch heels, and trying to walk on 20 year old woodchips.

  16. Wonderful — now I have a name for the phenomenon I was just noticing on my 18-month-old in the too-small (Carters) romper!

    It’s so interesting to read how big smocked stuff is in the south. It’s not really the “hot thing” here. I’d venture to say it’s regarded as a little old-fashioned, like something your mother-in-law buys for the kids and you kind of roll your eyes.

    Tea Collection, on the other hand — HUGE up here. Also Mini Boden. My oldest has a pair of shorts from Tea Collection and we joke that those are his “entitled-looking” shorts.

    So maybe you belong up here in the mid-Atlantic region! :)

    • I know. It’s very bizarre, but it’s actually a status symbol here. I’m with you – since my Mom dressed me in it when I was a kid (not because it was a status symbol but because it truly was just stylish then), I definitely think of it as old-fashioned. But there are a lot of people who are very passionate about it…

  17. I’m going to add “Pinterested Out” to my daily vocab, because you totally rock and that was a rockin awesome phrase…and because I need some new vocab because I apparently say “rock” a lot.
    and in my very Smock-Park-Unworthy opinion…diaper toe totally beats smock any day.

  18. Lindsay W. says:

    Oh my goodness! I just found your blog. I also live in a non-uppity part of Jefferson County. We have been to several birthday parties where our kids were the only ones not in Smock! What I don’t get is how the moms don’t seem to care how dirty their kids get those smocks at these outdoor birthday parties. I’m not spending that much money for kids clothes just for them to get them nasty playing outside. I thought we were the only anti-smock parents. Don’t get me wrong, smocks were cute when my kids were toddlers, but now 5 & 8, I don’t think so.

    • I’m glad I’m not alone!!

      Agreed on the dirt + smock thing. Isn’t it bizarre?

      Thanks for saying hi! Maybe we’ll run into each other at the park one day and be able to stand together as a staunch, brave resistance to The Wave of Smock.

  19. Angela in Arizona says:

    Boy did I need this blog of yours today! Brightened my whole day! Did I mention I LIVE in one of those neighborhoods, but refuse to conform to high priced children’s clothes and impractical footwear! It’s 110, we’re in a sand playground and why is your 3 year old wearing Uggs and a North Face jacket? (sigh) And for whatever reason, my 21mo son has diaper toe all the time! (mostly because he’s too portly for shorts.) Hilarious! I think it’s time for another post on smock – I need some visuals to this party! =) (and Pinterested out! NICE!)

  20. I just ran across your blog and am giggling my whole way through this post. I’m originally from the {slightly less prestigious} tiny kingdom and have been to many a Smock, Pinterested Out birthday party with a maxi-dress and wedge dress code. I always think about how ridiculous we all look with our matching attire – but you summed it up perfectly! Now, as a fellow Jeff-Co’er, I’d rather be on the not-so-uppity side of the sidewalk any day {even if I’m wearing a maxi dress & my daughter is clad in Smock…gotta keep up appearances!}.

  21. I just laughed and laughed. I dress my daughter in smocks. We don’t own many and most of them are second hand…. and we wear them to walmart….lol. Being “southern” smocks just bring up the idea of a small little girl… and let’s face it, I’m a mom struggling with the idea my todder isn’t an infant, so keeping that “little girl” image is important to me… My “smock” clearly doesn’t live in the suburban world you do… because… a carter romper is “nice clothing” here….lol. thanks for the laugh! (and for the record, I do not own a maxi dress… too freakin’ hot!)

  22. I know this post is old but I had to comment. I have frequented this park a fair amount. STAY away from that seemingly sweet little “hidden” trail. On more than one occasion I personally witnessed a smock mom takin her precious to the potty in the “woods”. I’m not even kidding. I could go on about rude behavior and manner and all sorts of things but I’m sure you are like minded in this area! The audacity!

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