Playgrounds and Parenting

Yesterday was the first time I went to a playground in many years. My children are well into adulthood. Now that we have a grandchild, I had reason to pay a visit. I saw so much, and probably through different eyes than the last time I spent any time there.

We were lucky enough to have our granddaughter, who I’ll call Lucy, was with us for a sleepover. [Her parents do not want her portrayed on social media and I respect their judgment, so I am not using her real name.] She is just over 15-months old, walking steadily, beginning to climb and enjoying the wonders of the outdoors. She liked picking up leaves and presenting them to us proudly. She also loves dogs – or “Doggies!” as she blurted out with glee every time she saw one. What better place to take her than Central Park, which as luck (or planning) would have it is down the block from our apartment.

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Plenty of leaves and acorns to pick up!

We took a few essentials, a hat, a sippy cup with water, put her in her stroller and off we went. The sun was struggling to break through the layer of clouds. The air was cool. Perfect weather for a visit to the playground. Lucy was alert to the sights and sounds – pointing and commenting with almost-words.

At the entrance to Central Park at 100th Street there is an extensive playground. I had walked past it many times before without paying much attention, and now I was about to get a whole new perspective.

It was ten o’clock on Sunday morning. I hadn’t given a thought to the fact that I was missing CBS Sunday Morning, until now as I write this, though I watch that show religiously. Grandchildren have a way of reprioritizing things.

The playground was busy, but not crowded. There were children of different shapes and sizes. We took Lucy out of the stroller and she started walking toward the sprinklers. I hadn’t realized there were sprinklers, so we weren’t prepared for her to get wet. Fortunately, she didn’t charge in – she was content to watch the water shooting up into the air. One boy, I’ll guess he was about 5, was wearing only his underwear, stood directly over the jet of water and seemed to enjoy pretending he was peeing. I wasn’t sure what I would have done if he was my child. That was the first of many similar questions I’d be asking myself over the course of the next hour.

What the child was doing was harmless and he was having fun. On the other hand, I would also want my son/grandson to learn “appropriate” public behavior. The mom appeared to be nearby. I didn’t hear or see her address him, but later when I looked over, they were gone. She may well have spoken to him privately or quietly or both. I wasn’t sitting in judgment; I wasn’t sure what “the right thing to do” was.

After watching the sprinklers for a while, we walked over to the area where there was a cement and brick climbing structure and slides once you got to the top. These were big slides! I imagined that from the top it would look like a mountain for a small child. Lucy was content to play with the sand at the bottom and explore the stones that made up the ladder. Several little boys were climbing. One was being watched by his older sister. She moved confidently up and down the structure, stopping to offer her little brother help. “You can do it, Milo,” she urged him. He followed her a couple of steps up, using his hands and feet. Then he seemed to get stuck in place. He started to whimper. His sister tried again to encourage him. “Follow me.” He couldn’t or wouldn’t. After a few more moments, she called “Dad! Milo needs help.” The Dad responded pretty quickly, climbing up, putting a hand on his son and encouraging him to continue going. Milo wasn’t having it. The Dad picked him up and carried him down. I didn’t hear what the Dad said to him.

Maybe I’m making too much of it, but parenting involves so many decisions, moment by moment. Was the big sister old enough to be watching him? Should the Dad have been closer by? Do you push your child to overcome their fear? If so, how hard? Again, I wasn’t judging the dad. I was reminded how hard it is to be a parent. And, for someone like me, where questions run amok, it could be torturous. I’m so glad I got through that stage! I will leave it to my children to judge whether I got it more right than wrong. With adult children, there are still parenting choices to make, but not every day! And they aren’t so vulnerable, they are more fully formed and can better withstand our mistakes.

Later when we were walking home, Gary observed that he wouldn’t have been sitting on the bench chatting with other parents if his son was Milo (who was quite a bit bigger than Lucy, and may have been two or three, but he was still in diapers). I said I wasn’t so sure what I would have done.

Being a grandparent is simpler. Our job was to keep Lucy safe. It was one morning of many for her. If we were more protective than her parents, she would recover. Better that way than the alternative.

 

5 thoughts on “Playgrounds and Parenting

  1. Ok, I must say that I am more judgemental and all of the parents involved got it wrong. You’ve got this little boy doing something with his private parts and the water fountain and it keeps going on and where are his parents? For goodness sake, get over there and get your child’s hands off his weewee covered only slightly by a little underwear being damaged by hurricane force water cannon.
    Then you’ve got a father sitting on the sidelines as his struggling young child is literally a millisecond from tumbling head first into that brick structure. What is the matter with these parents? If they behave like this in public, are they smoking joints while their kids play in traffic the rest of the time?
    Perhaps that was a bit tough. But they don’t know me so I stand by my statement.
    Parenting requires what it requires when it requires it (I’m pretty sure Yogi Berra was the first to say that). And when your kid is dangling off a high perch and he’s 2, you need to be there, not reading the comics.
    Thank you and I feel much better.

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  2. When I watch my grandson the goal is to return him to his parents unharmed. Let the parents figure out when and what risks the child’ needs to take in order to grow. … much much simpler being a grandparent….

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  3. Ira and I were crazy overprotective parents. I worried the kids were going to be afraid of their own shadows. It took awhile for us to feel comfortable with their being away from us at friend’s homes (ask Jake, my first question to any new friend’s parents was “do you own firearms?”) As a parent, it always seems we are second guessing ourselves. Like Gary, we felt it better to err on the side of caution when it came to our kids and their safety and well being.
    Loved your choice of topic, Linda. Since you and Gary did such a great job with Leah and Dan, Evey is in the best of hands.

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    1. Thank you, Mary. I appreciate the vote of confidence. Good for you asking that question!!! I remember thinking about that, but I don’t think I ever actually did it. Whatever mistakes we may have made, it wasn’t from lack of love and care. I think that counts for a lot.

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