My Philosophical Thoughts on Playgrounds

Earlier this week, Thomas looked out the window and said despondently, “Deddy, turn rain off.” 

Ah, my sentiments exactly, son. If only I could control the rain, I might have made a few dollars farming, but unfortunately I don’t control the rain; God does–or possibly the Illuminati–but either way I have little control over what falls from the sky over my farm. 

For Thomas, rain was the major impediment upon our progress to the park. Parks are wonderful places, places where toddlers can discharge energy without risk of your couch collapsing. Sure, there’s a slight risk you might pull your left deltoid muscle while showing your toddler how to climb the miniature rock wall, but thankfully your toddler shouldn’t know the four-letter words associated with a muscle pull yet.

Anyway, I’ve learned that what makes a good park isn’t so much sliding boards, rock walls, or an impact-friendly synthetic rubber surface, but the playground’s greater containment system. When you do pull a muscle, you will be considerably less mobile while your arm is hanging limply, so a good fence that at least impedes a toddler’s escape from custody is a nice feature. I’ve dealt with many types of livestock over the years, and I’ve always thought pigs were the most adept at probing fences for weaknesses, even more so than goats. Toddlers exceed even pigs and goats at escaping containment. Apparently, toddlers live to defy authority, whereas goats and pigs just take pleasure in it. 

Another important attribute of a park is its proximity to your domicile. It needs to be close enough to your house that your offspring doesn’t have time to fall asleep between departure from the park and your return home. Indeed, the whole point of taking your child to a park in the morning is to earn the 2 ½ hours of free time in the afternoon–and nothing sabotages all that carefully laid groundwork and sacrificial muscle sprain more than a toddler’s twenty-minute power nap on the way home. I’ve heard rumor that some superior specimens of human parents are capable of transferring a sleeping toddler from a car into their home without waking the sleeping ball of energy in their arms, but mostly I believe that’s a myth, given that modern-day car seats are about as user friendly as a twisted ratchet strap. Extricating sleeping toddlers from a car now requires a modern miracle, and good luck getting a toddler back to sleep who has awakened refreshed from a twenty minute power nap.

That said, you can, eventually, sleep soundly at night knowing you took your child to the park. Indeed, if there is one thing I’ve learned from fatherhood, it’s that happiness is a toddler on a sliding board.

7 thoughts on “My Philosophical Thoughts on Playgrounds

  1. Some of my very favorite pictures of my daughter are her looking very much as happy as Thomas at the park near our old house. We were very lucky — it was only two doors down from us, and we spent a lot of time there. And at the end of the street was the library. It was a perfect location, actually, but it was in the city, and city lots are small. This isn’t a problem if you have good neighbors, but if bad ones move in, they are only about three feet away. Sadly, that’s what happened to us, and we eventually moved. Fortunately, by that time, Darling Daughter was going into high school, and the park no longer loomed so large in her life. It’s me who occasionally feels nostalgic for that house and neighborhood.

    1. Our closest park is really nice, but it’s just about twenty minutes away, which is iffy in terms of him falling asleep on ride home. It would be nice if there was something a little closer, but living in rural area we take what we can get. Sometimes I think it would be nice to live in a city, with lots more amenities, but at the way things are being developed around here now we will be just another part of Charlotte in a few decades, and that makes me sad.

      1. I really liked living in the city. We were in a great neighborhood, but then the houses on either side of us changed hands, and things went downhill. Now we’re in a more rural area — on a state route in a township, which isn’t quite as rural as it sounds because there’s many developments with huge (somewhat pretentious, in my view) houses. And our house is too big for us now. We aim to downsize and move elsewhere — not in the sticks, but not on a main road either. Someplace with more sun for the bees.

  2. Or playgrounds far away – like half way on a long day’s drive, so you can let them get all the wiggles out, feed them, and then let them sleep for the next few hours of driving!

  3. Just returning from a visit with 2 toddler grandkids and our late afternoon walk to the playground (between a “power nap” and a hopeful easy bedtime). Your post is a perfect description and I can attest to 2 being a mind-blowing combo. I don’t remember our daughter ever having that much energy, but that was a few decades ago. . .

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