Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Survival Parenting: About Playgrounds

I have been irked twice in the last month over playground-enemity. In what kind of fucked up society have playgrounds become sites for acute social tension? Public spaces and kids, they seem not to mix?

Part of me wants to take the easy out and say it's an American problem. I want to link it to the pervasive, abuse of play by the mother corps of Disney, Hasbro and the rest. It makes sense that there is some American lot in childhood, to have playgrounds of terse interchanges among of children? Nope, Nonlinear girl, Canada doesn't have any corner on sweet social harmony. Not even the West Coast.

I have seen it here. I have seen it at the destination playgrounds. The uber park where sand gets trucked in thrice weekly and the jungle gyms are four-fold. Where the kids can hang in the sky on a wire and scream in delight as the nannies singe the trees with their cell phones. I stopped going to these parks in favour of ours a long time ago.

Our park is a rather sad sight some might say. It is surrounded by scrubby grass well peed on by a posse of neighbours' pooches. The benches are splintery and often covered with some lichen-like substance. The Parisien blue pig that rocks at the edge of the sand pit is truly a peril, with its spring nearly gone. The cedar structure that links the overly dangerous slide to the monkey bars to the bubble panels and the rings is untreated and likely corrupting the years-old sand. Some might want to improve it. I can see why.

But I do not want to improve it. I fear that it might bring more people in and that would be bad news for me. At the height of the summer we bring in folks from quite a few blocks away as we have the tall trees and shade and babes can be prime real estate when the temperatures ever turn toasty. I did not like it much. I like the park to be our property. Those of us in the nearby four blocks or so. It is that realm that is our society. A mangeable community of old people, young people and all the rest. An Austen-like rabble. And thus, it is not always rapture. I would be a liar to make it sound like I revel in every moment of this society. That I adore every turd dropping shepard and Mom n' Tot pairing within a mile of this place. I don't .

What I adore is that I can see this community so clearly. That my daughter and son are nascent citizens living in a discrete community that we are members of for little cost. (Ah, if you knew this real estate costs around here you would understand that last statement is laughable, but still.) While many playgrounds seem to inspire the clashes of parents and their choices ours is the antithesis. Rickety as it is. Rickety as we are in our parenting 'round here.... This is a paradise of rare quality?

I revel in the laisse-faire enclave here. Families filling the public space for play and certainly not to be seen. We walk here to expand our backyards into our city and vice versa. It is invigorating and relaxing. And, if my kid is a twit there I wouldn't balk at the scolding of her by any inhabitant of the park -- this is a two way street. We are the proverbial village I suppose. Alas, the cliche. A ragtag fugitive fleet of moms and dads, brothers and sisters testing the waters of families and friendships in the immediate. Self-serving and symbiotic. I'll close ranks around this tacky little patch of snotty sand and timber.

I sincerely believe I would be a lesser parent without our playground. It has tested me. We go there not just to play but also to be in public. I believe that is important for humans. There we may not all like one another all the time but the kids play. It is an important first lesson in simply society. As usual, my policy is survival parenting. And, I'll never, ever, go to the 'in' thing. Steer clear of the latest mommy group. Eschew the hot playgrounds and programs. Most certainly in those destinations reside the dragons of parenting I cannot conquer. I'll prefer the community based sites for us and hopefully our pleasures will promote and sustain the kinder gentler sort of public spaces out there for children.

Related Reading I must admit I have not finished reading this. It is a bit dry but I am commited to the ideas it represents.



Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

Fantastic, Mo-Wo! I admit that I used to go to a large playground with my daughter because it had all the wonderful amenities one could want... including the pain-in-the-ass parents. Not that I wanted them. No, to the contrary, I despised them. Now we go to a very small playground that has a lot less in the way of equipment but also a lot less bothers. We miss the large sandboxes but I don't miss the larger children who would kick sand at my kid and their parents who would just look away.

11:18 a.m.  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

The best park in summertime, for us, IS a destination park - it has the best shade and the coolest breezes, which are essential to survival in a Toronto summer. But it suffers from the malignancy of attitude that you describe, which stills the breeze, for sure.

5:50 a.m.  
Blogger pixie sticks said...

I love the ideas of parks in theory, it's just the reality of the big people who bring their little people to them that scares me away.

4:21 p.m.  

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