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Lauren Conlin has seen her share of the drama on the pandemic playground. Once, another mother yelled at her for pulling her mask down briefly so she could take a sip of iced coffee. “I was about 8 feet away and she said, ‘Ma’am, can you take off your mask? For example, there’s a reason we use them, “Conlin, a celebrity correspondent and host of the” Red Carpet Rendezvous “podcast, told The Post.” I didn’t answer anything, but [internally] I was like, ‘Calm down, Karen I’m not near you! ‘”

On another occasion, a 7-year-old boy gave Conlin’s 2-year-old son MJ a dirty look when the little boy sneezed near her.

“He was probably six feet from her, but her face was so scared and so disturbed,” Conlin said. “I was like, ‘I’m so sorry! He is not sick! She just sneezed! She’s not wearing a mask because she’s not even 2 years old! ‘I felt the need to explain myself to her. ”

Yet nothing compared to the chaos on a recent Saturday at Central Park’s Billy Johnson Playground, the one with the famous 45-foot granite slide.

“It was bumpy – the kids were crawling over each other to get to the slide with their pieces of cardboard,” said Conlin, 35, who lives on the Upper East Side, referring to the squares that the regulars sit in for older. speed. “Then a girl started taking her cardboard and hitting another girl quite hard.” They all wore masks, but they hardly distanced themselves. “There was a big shouting match [between the parents]. . . We were all in shock. ”

The state closed public playgrounds on April 1, when New York was in the throes of the coronavirus. So when they reopened in June, many parents, after spending months locked up in apartments with their little ones, rejoiced. But now, as people who had fled the city during the pandemic’s darkest days return, playgrounds have become increasingly crowded. Children who used to play well with others seem to have forgotten how. Add to that the ongoing anxiety of parents over exposure to the virus, it’s a perfect storm for drama.

“The playgrounds are definitely more tense now,” Conlin said.

Lauren Conlin and her family at Pat Hoffman Friedman Playground in Central Park

Antonio D’Souza, who lives on the Upper West Side and has a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, said he has noticed that children with overly concerned parents seem to have a more difficult time adjusting to pandemic life on the playground. .

“I saw a father following his daughter around the jungle gym, saying, ‘Don’t touch this; don’t touch that, ‘”the 40-year-old engineer recalled. “It made her really nervous.”

He also notes that some children who were out all summer in patio homes or who were isolated from other children appear to have lost their socialization skills.

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“We have friends who only took their 3-year-old son to the playground for the first time [since March] two or three weeks ago,” D’Souza said. “I hadn’t seen another child in six months and I didn’t even know what to do.” D’Souza said that sometimes a parent would bring a clinging child and place it next to another child, only for the child to run to the parent and cling to their legs.

“What the child needs most at this time is for the parents to be calm. . . because going to the park will not be a good experience if they feel anxiety or tension from their parents, “clinical psychologist Judith Zackson told The Post. “The child must understand that the park is still a fun place and it can be a safe place, but there are different rules.”

Zackson added that if the situation feels too emotionally charged, sometimes it is better to leave.

This is why Steph McCrory has decided to avoid the park altogether. Their 3-year-old son, Finn, has an autoimmune disease called mastocytosis that causes lesions on her skin.

Steph McCrory and her son, Finn at the Astoria Heights Playground in Queens.

“Even before the pandemic, we would get a strange little look, or a mother subtly pushing the child away when [Finn] got too close,” said the 31-year-old Astoria resident. But people are hypersensitive right now. . . I see posts all the time on my mom’s Facebook groups that say, ‘I’ve seen this person on the playground without a mask’ or ‘This kid took off his mask,’ and I knew the tension plus concern about the Finn’s spots was just something I didn’t want to deal with. ”

Even though Finn was initially disappointed, McCrory decided to skip the possible hurtful stares and responses from strangers on the playground by skateboarding around his neighborhood.

In fact, looks are the bargaining chip now that most are wearing masks.

“It is difficult to talk to a stranger in the park when you are wearing a mask. Some people say that the masks are taking away our freedom and the ability to live and communicate. But [the mask] gives us the opportunity to pay attention to the signs. non-verbal, to the tone, to the eyes, “said Zackson.” You can tell a lot when you look into a person’s eyes, if they are smiling, if they are upset. And also the way their body behaves, if it moves away from you, if it leans towards you. ”

Enlarge ImageHeath Fradkoff with his family at Mother Cabrini Playground in Red Hook.
Heath Fradkoff with his family at Mother Cabrini Playground in Red Hook.Stephen Yang
Dad Heath Fradkoff, for example, says there can be power in a direct look: “For the most part, everyone has been doing a good job of distancing themselves and staying safe,” said the 42-year-old, who lives in Red Hook. with his wife, 3-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter. “Outliers get a bit of the side eye and line up too.”

But Fradkoff said a little discomfort is worth the joy of letting his children relax and feel part of a community once again.

“As a city, New York’s superpower is its ability to come together in a crisis, and it was this superpower that took the pandemic from us,” he said. “Going back to the playgrounds feels like a small triumph in light of all that. Watching our kids be kids for a while, even if it looks a little different than before, with masks and hand sanitizer ready, it feels important. “

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IbrarHussain

Ibrar Hussain is the USA Today Bestselling author of 6 novels, including The Dig, A Warm Place to Call Home (a demon’s story), and Exigency. He lives in Northern California with “the wife,” “the kids,” “the dog,” “that cat,” and he occasionally wears pants. His latest release, RETURN, is the third book in his #1 bestselling Matt Turner series.

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