The Interpersonal Parental Politics of Coldwater Canyon Park on a Wednesday

The sidewalk in Coldwater Canyon Park in Beverly Hills
The sidewalk where legends were made

“It’s just soap”

“I need you to know how entitled you are.”

Ladies and gentlemen, please let me present to you the lives of people we will never be.

My family was in town recently, and that included my 6-year old niece. We made the best of it, the best you can in Los Angeles post-pandemic, post-re-opening. We researched a few parks, specifically looking for one with a splash pad play area, and oh boy, did we find a gem.

It turns out that Coldwater Canyon Park in Beverly Hills is where all the rich parents — and on kismet days, even celebrities — bring their kids to play and splash and climb.

I was hypnotized by the perfect moms. The first one I saw, an arresting 5’10” blonde with legs as long as I was tall — wore an of-the-moment stretchy jumpsuit-biker shorts situation in a muted color with a button-down layered over it. She paired it with a fedora, and in a world where no one can pull off a fedora anymore thanks to 2009, she was pulling it off. She paired it with those cloud slide sandals that are making the rounds on TikTok, yet somehow her outfit stood out despite the obvious air of trendiness.

I fully expected that she was a model, though it’s reasonable to think that most of these moms, at some point, subsisted on runways, free cocktails and weekends in Vegas with the men who would eventually become their rich husbands.

Next to her stood a woman who was trying to round up at least three kids with just her voice. And somehow, she did it, without moving a muscle, they fell in line. And I can see why she didn’t want to move — her black two-piece set of a midriff top and a long, fitted skirt that hit just above her belly button. She wore thick, squared black sunglasses and a black fanny pack. Her nude sandals wrapped around her feet as the perfect accent. The exact woman who commands attention at a dinner party without touching her food.

I note this all from my body insecurities because, you should know if you’re going to read to the end, that my average-size body did not fit into this park. I’m writing most of this from a place of jealousy, but the pivotal parts, I write from astonishment at the audacity. The witnessing of a micro-world where rich people still live with a special kind of privilege.

And next to them, was the mom that I would hang out with if I were a rich mom.

She had long, wavy, blonde-tinged brunette hair under a straw Fedora (also pulling it off! This might be a story about a magical park where adults over 30 go to pull off Fedoras.), paired with a boxy pink t-shirt and cutoff jean shorts, plus flipflops. It was a style without a style, a trend for a Sunday where no one wants to be seen at brunch, or a Wednesday at the park with kids.

Before we can go further with this story, I need you to understand the layout of this park because it’s pivotal. Of course there’s the swing set and monkey bars and all the usual park must-haves that are important elements in the wearing out of kids for the day. All of that is surrounded by a brown, metal fence.

On the outside of the fence, you’ll find a stream. The park stretches out for a few hundred feet, a lawn shaded by big trees. Cutting right through the center of that lawn is a manmade stream, built just for the kids who wanted to splash through it on a hot day. Instead of a dirt bottom, it was shaped by a natural-looking plastic painted brown plastic lining. Like a rainbow with clouds at the end, this stream was bookended by large rock formations, meant to hide the drain.

But see, this stream did drain out to the ocean or even have a filter. The water just circulated around and around, pushed through its own unending circle of life by the tilt of the water. The first rock formation sat at a higher ground than the lower rock formation, and the lower rock formation had a small pool meant to fit the feet of a few small children at once.

The whole thing was supposed to be a preoccupation machine, one that cooled off kids and gave parents a chance to sit in the shade. So imagine everyone’s surprise when one of the fathers at the park dumped a bunch of soap in the stream. The self-contained stream. The no-filter stream.

Now, it wasn’t a particularly dramatic effect. One of the kids was crying after getting soap in his eyes. Mostly the kids were enjoying the moment, collecting the foam in their tiny hands and dumping it onto the other kids, who squealed and ran away.

But the parents were — unsure. This mess in the park would eventually be a mess at home, and you could see it on their faces.

But beyond that, even as a childless thirtysomething, I could fully understand the implications of poisoning a water source that kids played in with a substance that could be an allergy for some, or cause painful eyes for another. Many of the parents laughed it off, but my girl in the pink shirt — she had words about it. And they were words I liked.

Some people at the park would say that she was yelling. But me? I would tell you that she was sharing her opinion. I would tell you that she was asserting herself. I would tell you that she was course-correcting a fully grown man who had probably never heard the word “no” before.

She stood on the edge of the stream, just outside the water where her kids played behind her. He was sitting about 10 feet away, on a blue blanket that stretched out under him, his wife and their five kids.

And I sat about another 10 feet behind them on a purple blanket, enraptured by the exchange.

Now, I couldn’t really hear what he was saying back to this mom, who was trying to explain why he should have gotten permission from other parents — and fuq, probably the city, of which this was their property, after all. Based on his I-know-more-than-all-moms-combined hand gestures, neck bandana, goatee and — yes ladies and gentleman, a gift for you — a FEDORA (he was not pulling it off) I’m guessing it was a mix of gaslighting (“Oh it’s not that big of a deal, you’re just being dramatic) and mansplaining (“It’s just soap, it dissolves in water.”)

All the while, his wife was silent. Not silent, but… sneering. She was obviously going to side with her husband, laughing at the mom while also somehow ignoring her.

It was infuriating to watch, and I can’t even imagine the fire that must have caught in this mom’s mind. He deserved an earful, but no one had said anything to him. Even the park monitors who gathered at the edge of the rock formation, debating what to do (hint: probably drain and refill the stream).

“It’s just soap.”

“I just need you to know how entitled you are. There are kids crying over there because they got soap in their eyes. You can’t just pour soap into water in a public park.”

A f*cking weird conversation for any day of the week, but it seemed especially in-apropos on a Wednesday at 4:10 pm. We were all just waiting for cocktail hour.

But that’s not the wildest part. The wildest part is his passive aggressive, I’m-gonna-pout-til-I-get-my-way response.

Oh, you see, over the middle of the stream is a bridge. And the bridge walkway cuts through the other half of the lawn, perpendicular to the water.

He picked up his daughter’s sidewalk chalk, gave a small adjustment to his navy, fitted, V-neck tee and bootcut jeans (perfectly distressed), then walked over the bridge and stopped in the most central part of the walkway, making sure everyone could see what he was about to do.

What did he write in big, pink, bubble letters with his child’s sidewalk chalk?

K-A-R-E-N

Words I didn’t like, at least not from someone who had no right to wield them.

No one was horrified. No one screamed. Most of the moms looked pretty amused at the mild drama of it all. A few even took pictures.

He left after that, maybe even he was asked to leave, with the park monitors still puzzling at how to clean the stream. Soap bubbles were now gathering en masse around the base of the rock formations, and they weren’t exactly looking clean.

I turned to one of the mom’s who saw everything and probably knew more than I did:

“OMG I can’t believe he dumped soap in the stream. What a douche!”

She agreed, shook her head yes, and then uttered one of the most infuriating sentences I’d ever encountered in the wild.

“I can’t believe she, like, yelled at him.”

E-X-C-U-S-E M-E?

This guy is a huge douche nozzle and we’re going to shit-talk the literal ONE mom who stood up to him?

I don’t know a lot of things, but I know this: I would never fit into LA mom circles. I probably wouldn’t fit into any mom circles, but especially not the ones that required me to keep my mouth shut when men do dumb things, in order to survive my social status.

Anyway, cool mom, the mom in the pink shirt, the mom who used her voice when she saw ridiculous adult behavior and no one would back her up — I should have backed you up. I should have agreed with you out loud. I should have stolen his fedora and given it to you, who would wear it as a crown.

If you’re out there, cool mom, ignore the rest of the moms no matter how stylish they are. You’re way more fun.

Paige Kathleen Ray is a writer in Los Angeles.