Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Playground Inspection Schmaground Inspection

This morning we walked my mini group-home to the school to play on the park by the kindergarten room. We go there all the time and usually we're the only ones there.

Today, when we arrived, we saw there were some other women there and I assumed other kids, until Alena -- Alerter of All Things Odd -- came to me and whispered,
"Mama. What are they doing? There aren't any kids with them."

Upon closer examination, I realized they were playground safety inspectors on the job. Cameras in hand. Clipboards at the ready.
(I also saw the "Playground Inspection Kit" tag on their rolling duffle in the walkway.)

The kids ran off to play anyway and I sat to observe.

I watched as these very official women pulled out a plastic yellow head shaped item with a handle from their bag and then tried to shove it in every conceivable crevass.
Between the bars.
Between the stairs.
In the spokes of the pretend Captain's wheel.

After this, they took out a measuring tape and measured the distance from the edge of the stairs to the concrete. Alena asked if this was to make sure that a kid couldn't fall and hit their head on the concrete from the stairs.
I guess she must have been right. Unless it was a freakishly tall kid.

My issue is that with that mentality, one might, say, measure from the end of the slide to the side of the school building in case a kid with great trajectory flew off the end and into space and crashed into the wall.

One woman with a leather berret and a clipboard was very serious about her job.
She surveyed the kids playing without even a twitch of a smile as she scribbled with her pencil.
The only thing I heard her say the whole time was,
"Now we need to check the slide exits."

I had to laugh.
These people had clearly forgotten what childhood was.
They need a Personal Peter Pan.

I mean, I know what the purpose of it is, and I in every way agree with keeping kids safe, but geez - I think we may have gone too far, America.

They have already taken almost all swings out of parks because they have been deemed unsafe.
Swings are one of the cornerstones of park life in my mind.
But maybe that's just me.

When I was a kid almost every slide was metal and rusty and would most likely tip completely over if there was a big gust of wind. If you cut yourself you'd better be up on your Tetanus.
The sides of it were about 1 inch tall and really had no purpose at all if you happened to have any meat on your bones.

There were merry-go-rounds and they WERE merry.
What kid DOESN'T like spinning around at nauseating speeds?
Who cares if there is a *slight* danger of flying off into a few bystanders?
We'd just dust ourselves off, wipe any blood off with some of our own spit, and then get back on and do it all over again.

Kids LOVE that stuff.

I mean just this week we were in the mall and had to stop and wait as Tessa spun around and around in the entry way until she made herself dizzy and went crashing into a large Lucy statue. She then said, "Head", giggled and walked off at an angle.

And isn't getting your head stuck in something almost a childhood right of passage?

In my day, (I must be old to have said that.) parents really barely even watched their kids at all.

We'd go out at daybreak and not come in until the sun went down.
We'd play in the creek without water rings or sunscreen or hats or glasses or those weird little water shoes from the drugstore.
We'd make soup from water in the creek that was, for all we know, a sewer run-off.
We threw rocks and actually ATE our mud pies.
I don't think I washed my hands from 1986 until 1990.

I thought it was normal to get so much sun that you thought you'd throw up.

The adults didn't worry that we'd get hurt.
And we actually rarely did.

As a matter of fact, even when we DID, they'd roll their eyes and huff their breath and begrudgingly get up to search for bandages.
I'm now realizing that this very thing may have been the birth-place of the DVR, because I suspect they just didn't want to miss their "show" for something such as blood and gore and nurturing.

I remember one time, for example, I was running and ran right into the end of a large piece of scrap metal sticking off of my dad's truck and sliced the side of my face open so badly that blood was literally DRIPPING down my face.
When I walked in crying and pale (most likely from the blood loss) my mom's shoulders dropped and she said,


We just made a game of it. One of our favorites was
See Who Can Get The Least Metal Welding Shrapnel Embedded In Their Bare Feet While Walking In The Driveway After One Of Dad's Projects.
It was a way of life.

We actually didn't want HIM to aid us for fear that his remedy would be something you'd only hear of in a book about a mad scientist.
We didn't want our gashes sewn up with horse tail hair.

And by the way, where was that yellow plastic head tool at Sonoma Taco Shop yesterday when Chloe wedged her whole body in the bars at the ordering line and I practically had to ask for the tortilla oil bottle to get her out?

That's not scary.
That's comedy.

Why are we so frightened of a scraped knee?
Isn't that a part of childhood?
Feeling a cool wet cloth on your leg and learning the lesson that sometimes things hurt, but that shouldn't stop you from trying them.
That it's good to dust yourself off and next time just mind your step a bit more.

So please give the kids their swings back.
And the merry-go-rounds, while you're at it.
Then maybe after you're done, YOU should try them for a bit.
Try touching the leaves with your toes on the upswing.
Maybe even jump off from the highest point.
Whirl around and around until you get a little sick.
It's OK to smile even if you ARE wearing a leather hat.


  1. Oh many times did I hang on for dear life on that Merry Go Round at Brookhaven Park? Who even knows???? Sad that my kids don't get to experience that...unless my dad and your dad get together a build us a new one...

  2. Ang. Please don't give my dad any ideas.

  3. I didn't realize any other child on earth played avoid-the-shrapnel-in-the-driveway. We absolutely did have the same childhood.