We were enjoying the beautiful February weather (the day I wrote this post). Two words that don’t really go together in the same sentence are beautiful and February, right? However, that is what we, my youngest, my husband, the two dogs and I were doing today. Having labs, we took a long, long, never-long-enough walk through the woods in order to let them run around, sniff the smells, roll in deer poop (I’m told this is a dog thing), and run around some more- because they are crazy. Because I have a very physical thirteen year old, I made her hike and walk with us. I’ve discovered that on the days she accompanies me (or us, as the case was today) on the outside walk time, the better she behaves in the evening, and the better she sleeps at night. She will swear that she doesn’t enjoy the outdoors, but my girl keeps up with the labs, is in front of them sometimes, and is usually grinning from ear to ear while we’re outside (thankfully, she does not roll in deer poop).
We emerged from the woods across from a playground, which Katie wanted to play on for just a few minutes. I am usually the nay-sayer, but Mark beat me to the punch and said yes, because, sun. In February. We can stay here for as long as we want.
There were a lot of moms at the playground with their preschoolers, but Katie is used to being around all ages of kids. We homeschool, so she is comfortable speaking and playing with adults and kids both older and younger than her. Nonplussed, she bounded, ran, and leaped from the sidewalk to the playground, while Mark and I took the dogs to the shade to cool off, as It was actually quite warm.
Not ten minutes went by before Katie scaled the playground equipment, and pulled herself up to the tippy-top of the highest part of the outside of the slide. Mark and I were watching her. We were present, and obvious to anyone that we were, indeed, her parents, and, truthfully, we were chuckling a bit while watching her climb.
She be little, but she be fierce! This is Katie’s norm, you see. She is a climber, and I have spent several moments of her life either biting my nails, or just praying over her and turning away. Honestly, it’s just better to not watch, sometimes. We’re a little bit mad here, and a bit old-fashioned, I guess, by letting our kids play hard, and we also aren’t about stifling creative play. We aren’t going to put her or let her stay in danger. Katie is a strong sensory-seeking-input type of child; and she is an athlete. She always has been, and I’m pretty sure she always will be. Climbing things is part of the package that makes up Katie.
that little streak of red is our Katie-cat
So, while Mark and I are laughing and watching, one of the moms present became so not amused. She went running (not exaggerating) up to the play structure, gesturing at Katie and commanding her to get down from there right now, which Katie did, thank goodness. Not a lot of filters on that little one, but we’ve been insistent on respecting adults as a rule. Then, said mom returned to her group of friends that she was talking with.
Mark and I, however, became immediately somewhat defensive. What just happened? Do we respond? What’s going on?
“Maybe it’s a rule that she can’t play on the outside of the play equipment,” I remarked.
Ever calm (sarcasm) about the “safety police” as he calls them (Katie gets this type of energy from him, by the way; I’m surprised he survived childhood), ranted, “It’s a playground! She is playing.”
I just nodded as he walked over to the rule board to read said rules. He conferred with Katie, and told her she wasn’t in trouble and came back to me with the news that there was no rule about “playing wrong on the playground!” Obviously.
“Well,” I said, “then she should climb if she wants to. She isn’t doing anything wrong.”
Mark asked if he should say something, and I thought yes, he should. Like I said, we were in plain sight of her, she wasn’t doing anything wrong, and she wasn’t being rude to anyone. So, he did just that and very respectfully walked over to the mom and told her that he could see Katie, and he was comfortable with her climbing, and she wasn’t breaking any rules. Well, apparently this wasn’t even about Katie, it was about her kids. She didn’t want them to be encouraged by Katie’s climbing prowess and attempt the same feat. Mark was dubious, and remarked that that was on her. She replied that she didn’t want to go the Emergency Room, and then she escalated, I know, because I heard her voice rise, at which point, Mark very respectfully waited for her to finish, then nodded and repeated that he was comfortable with what Katie was doing, and that she didn’t need to correct his child, thank you, have a good day, ma'am. At which point, I witnessed her throw her arms up and throw a book she was holding to the ground, and then she stomped toward her car. Then I stopped watching, because I so don't like confrontations.
Now, I understand both sides of this coin. Other children would surely see what Katie did as “cool” and want to try the same thing. They might take a risk they aren’t developmentally ready to take. They might indeed have to take a trip to the Emergency Room. The other side of this, though, is that Katie had every reason to be able to play on that playground as every other child. The rules were not broken, and it wasn’t even a private playground, it was a Stafford Parks and Rec playground. Not only that, Mark and I were watching her. On top of everything else, of course, is the fact that Katie is a great climber!
Furthermore, here is a truth: Parenting is a hard enough job to accomplish successfully with your own children. Outside of blatant harming behaviors (throwing rocks or sand, pushing/shoving, biting), correcting another person’s child crosses a line. At least I think so. Again, if she was being rude, or inhibiting younger children’s play, or purposely creating danger for other children, by all means, correct away. Otherwise, let me (us, my family) parent my kids, and you can parent your kids. Also, let the kids play on the playground equipment. We, as parents, are not doing anyone any good by keeping our children in a bubble. I’ve found that most children have a pretty keen sense of self-preservation when it comes to play. If they aren’t comfortable climbing, they probably won’t climb (an aside, again, would be teaching true danger limitations, such as loose rocks, busy streets, dead trees).
We returned from playground-gate completely unscathed and pretty calm (we still had a mile-walk home), but a little more aware of something happening in our country. Everything is about safety and lawsuits, even on playgrounds, and some people truly believe that they are part of the village that needs to raise all the children. I’m all about helping friends out or keeping a child from bolting into the street, but if you are present and watching your child do fill-in-the-blank, and you are not upset, then it isn’t my job to overrule your judgment. I think that would be bad manners. Also, injuries are inevitable during childhood. It happens. It stinks, but, guess what happens when a child gets injured doing something? I’ll tell you. They learn.
Keep Calm, and parent on!