Vienna Burchfield: The Pandemic Playground

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The pandemic has created new rules for just about everything and everywhere, it seems, and the playground is not immune. Vienna Burchfield has this Perspective.

I was ecstatic when playgrounds re-opened in my county because my 3 year old had been dying to go for seven months. We arrived and noticed signs indicating mask requirements for anybody over the age of 2. But as I looked around, I was appalled at the lack of compliance. Only about half of children and adults wore a face covering.

I was annoyed not because I am terrified of COVID, but because of the larger implications for a community showing disregard for other people and authority.

We’ve been to several parks since then with similar results. It seems some parents are less afraid of COVID than they are of the dreadful parenting task of setting boundaries. I get it: it’s uncomfortable to endure the whining and tantrums when enforcing rules. But in this case of social responsibility, not following the rules comes across to me as entitlement and arrogance. Children may receive the message that they are superior to the kids following the standard, or that other people’s safety and opinions don’t matter.

I am far from a perfect parent. In fact, I’m embarrassed by some things I’ve done or said in front of my children. But one of my priorities is to teach them emotional intelligence like empathy, interconnectedness, and social awareness. I don’t intend to guilt any parents who have let their 5-year old loose on a playground without a mask. I just hope parents may contemplate the values they want to impart on their children, and take deliberate actions aligned with those. Masking your child at the park can be a lesson in being cognizant of the greater whole. Social support and feeling like you belong to a group have been linked to happiness. And don’t we just want our kids to be happy?


As some child has so inspirationally posted on a window in my neighborhood, “We are all in this together.”

With a Perspective, I’m Vienna Burchfield.

Vienna Burchfield is a public health nurse in Contra Costa County.