This post was written by my friend Lindsey, a stay-at-home mom who picks fights with other moms in her head. And never loses.
You know when your kids are running around, getting fresh air, and all is going smoothly? Everyone is getting along, going up and down the slide, laughing with each other and playing without a care in the world. Other kids join in. They’re laughing too. You look up from your phone and smile— you are really nailing this parenting thing today! Then some other kids’ mom comes up and says, “no no. The slide is for going down. The stairs are for going up.” Ummmmm wait. What.
I have no interest whatsoever in intervening and setting up rules at the playground for how the equipment gets used. Use it however you please, just move your little bodies! And don’t fight! I’m sure the mother is coming from a good place around safety, but just because this isn’t the traditional use of the equipment doesn’t mean it is inherently unsafe!
A New York Times article discussed how our playgrounds are too safe and its stunting the emotional development of our children. Playgrounds with tall climbing structures and slides allow a child to gradually build confidence against risks and overcome fears. When they are sheltered from these risks, they are not given the chance to overcome their anxieties that can grow into bigger fears later in life. Plus, safer playgrounds are not challenging and the children are not as engaged. We should be encouraging them to climb the slide!
And what’s the worst that can happen if the child did get hurt climbing the slide? As Alfred says to batman, “Why do we fall Master Wayne? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Climbing the slide is more than just a physical feat. There’s a whole imaginary game that goes along with climbing the slide. By intervening in their play at the playground, we limit their imagination. They’re climbing a mountain! They’re running on a treadmill at an incline! They’re…. I don’t know, I’m not the one with the childhood imagination. Adulthood killed my imagination… It’s not my place to kill theirs.
We need to give our children more free play, less rules and guidelines. Allow them to reinvent an object’s use and purpose. Creativity is the key to progress. When we raise our kids inside adult constructed boxes with adult imposed limits and adult scripted play, we take away the challenge of them overcoming their obstacles. We don’t allow them the opportunity to problem solve and trouble shoot. A child learns when their curiosity is engaged.
It also allows them to learn how to resolve their own conflicts when we don’t get involved. If this mom wasn’t motivated by safety, perhaps she was doing it out of consideration. Its not fair when one child hogs the slide and no one else gets a turn. I like to stand back and give the kiddies a chance to find a solution on their own, partly because I don’t feel like getting up if I don’t have to… But also because sometimes these kids can come up with some pretty awesome solutions all on their own! And they gain confidence and learn empathy when this happens. When I can see they can’t resolve it themselves, I will go and help them solve the problem, but it doesn’t require a blanket rule ending the game entirely. Climbing the slide has, at times, turned into a game where all the kids on the playground participate.
(When babies and small toddlers are present of course I make an exception. But the rule is to be considerate. And I supervise more diligently)
A key to a strong relationship, any relationship, is to limit the number of battles you choose to engage in. This allows you to have a more enjoyable time together. That goes for parenting as well. Unfortunately, children will push every boundary they can – mine do at least. So if I can limit the number of battles I engage in by even just one, like “don’t climb the slide” let’s say, we will have a more pleasant day, my children will have more fun, and their little brains will have had an opportunity to grow and learn a new skill.
You can follow Lindsey at @daysofourshittylives on Instagram.