Updated: Jul 13, 2019
Surfaces: wood chips, concrete.
The playground at Glendora Park is so spectacularly okay, so perfectly middle-of-the-road, that I don’t really have anything to say about it. So instead I’m going to write about something I overheard while we were here.
Parents often laugh about how young kids drive them crazy by asking so many questions. It’s one of those things, like resisting sleep and not eating vegetables, that we like to complain about before our kids become teenagers and start having real problems.
But I’d like to suggest that the only people who ask more questions than 5-year-olds are parents of 2-year-olds. In fact, we may have taught them how to ask interminable questions.
At Glendora, I saw two simultaneous examples of this.
First, I watched a dad unload a sleeping toddler from a stroller. He lifted the adorable kid, limbs flopping around like a sack of laundry, and plopped her on her feet at the threshold of the playground. As she rubbed her eyes and looked around to get a sense of where she was, her father’s questions began:
“Are we at the playground? Do you remember the playground? Are you hungry? You want a snack? Are you a grumpy girl today? Wanna go on the slide? Are you still sleepy?”
Within a minute, the poor kid was crying. This prompted dad to ask: “Oh, do you want to go home?”
The second example was happening on the swings, where a hyper-enthusiastic mother was swinging her three-ish year-old and asking, repeatedly and with almost maniacal enthusiasm: “Are you on the swing? Are you on the swing? Are you having fun? Are you on the swing?” The kid stared back blankly, seemingly unsure of how to respond. I don’t blame him.
I want to clarify that I’m not trying to demonize either of these parents. I don’t know the context in either case. They were out there, playing with their kids, just trying to do their best, which is all any of us can ever try to do. And hey, I’m not the perfect parent. Like any parent, I feel perfect on some days, and hopelessly inept on other days.
But something I’ve been consciously trying to do in my parenting has been to limit the number of questions I ask of my kids. There are plenty of good reasons for this, but mostly I want to reduce my questioning because it helps with my more general goal of not wanting to constantly manage their fun.
What I mean by that is: playgrounds are wonderful places. Even mediocre ones engage curiosity and invite exploration. I want to let my kids follow their curiosity, and I have to accept that what they want to do might not be what I expect them to want to do. So unless they are clearly putting themselves or others in danger, the playground is theirs to explore. I might want them to go on the swing so that I can get that perfect photo…but they might want to carefully place wood chips on the seat of the swing instead.
I mean, imagine being in a similar situation as an adult. You’ve just arrived at a museum you’ve always wanted to visit, or a gallery, or whatever, and immediately a tour guide walks up to you: “What do you want to see first? The Neolithic artifacts? The sculpture exhibit? Maybe the gift shop? There’s a café, are you hungry? Are you in a museum? Are you in a museum? Are you in a museum?”
All this is to say that the parents I saw at Glendora with a million questions obviously aren’t bad people. They want to help their kids, and they want them to have fun. I just think that sometimes we have to step back a bit.