Behind my in-law's house there is a creek. Along the creek there is a path and at the end of the path there is a playground. Nothing fancy. It's called Cinderella Park because one of the aparatuses is in the shape of a carriage. The playground equipment is old. Made of metal and wood that's been coated with many shades of paint, the most recent of which is begining to chip. Except for one tube slide, there is no plastic in sight. The monkey bars in the shape of a spider are a bit rusty. The wood in the carriage is splintered. The rubber seats of the swings are cracked. There's not a lot of mulch covering the ground, just dirt which often is mud. It's not brightly colored and it's not elaborate. It looks nothing like the playgrounds you see today with hard plastic strucures, wood chips covering the ground and sprawling landscapes.
Yesterday I took the kids there. They've been a few times. And when we go, I think about how playgrounds aren't made like this anymore. We, as a society and as parents, are so worried about safety. Now, I'm not saying we should throw all caution to the wind and go back to the days of no carseats and walkers...but sometimes I wonder if we take it overboard.
Remember those hot summer days where the metal slide burned the back of your thighs? But they were so fast and so steep that it didn't even matter. Remember see saws? Remember having to work together and not bailing on your partner so he didn't get dropped to the ground? Remember jumping off of a spinning merry-go-round? Hanging upside down from monkey bars? You don't see these kinds of things at playgrounds anymore. I'm sure that kids got hurt on all of these and that's why. But isn't that also part of growing up? Being curious, taking action and learning from it?
While at the playground yesterday, Ainsley fell into the mud and this horrible look spread across her face. The feeling of the mud and the realization of dirtiness set in. I'm not going to lie, my first instinct was "Oh crap, now she's dirty!" But I stopped myself and remembered all those millions of times I had to strip down out of my dirty clothes on the back porch because I had been playing in the nearby creek or digging for worms or building tree forts.
So I helped her up and said "That's okay. You'r a little kid, you're supposed to get dirty." And all that concern and worry left her face and she dropped to her knees and shoved her hand right in the mud. I think we can tolerate a little mud and outdated playground equipment in the name of fun, don't you?