We’re not a playground family. For so long, there has always been one member of the family who is too young to navigate the steps, slides, and swings alone. And this mama isn’t interested in climbing steps, going down slides with a baby, or pushing a baby on the swings over and over and over.
Once or twice is enough, thank you very much.
So we typically just ignore the parks. Occasionally, we go to out-of-the-way playgrounds at odd hours of the morning when I can be certain we won’t be sharing the park with big kids who will trample my baby.
Like last week. I took my 2-year-old to a playground that was completely empty. I dutifully climbed the steps, sat my toddler on my lap, and slid down a slide. I then repeated the process on another slide. It wasn’t Disneyland, but it was fun enough.
And those two times down the slide were just enough fun for me.
So I told my little boy that he’s big enough to ride the slides on his own. I wasn’t sure if I was telling the truth or not, but he believed my words and took over that playground and its slides like a boss.
So when we took the kids to a skate park last night, and 2-year-old Rex saw a slidey playground beyond the fence, he remembered his sliding skills and begged to be taken to the magical jungle of twisty metal and plastic.
“Why not?” I thought. I think we might finally be to the stage where each child can hold his/her own at the playground and I can sit comfortably on the sidelines.
So I left the two older kids skating with Dad and hopped over to the playground to make my 2-year-old’s sliding dreams come true.
Crawling with Kids
Things were different this time, though.
This time, we didn’t have the playground to ourselves. It was a gorgeous night, and every single family in the entire city must have thought it was a good night to take advantage of the slides my son was eager to ride.
I gingerly sat on a bench, ready to jump up and intervene if needed, while Rex confidently marched up the steps and propelled himself down a twisty slide. My eyes didn’t leave my baby boy’s adorable bouncy walk and sloppy end-of-the-day hair as he made the upward trek and downward passage again and again.
Confident he could handle the more-crowded scene with ease, I settled back into the bench and began to take in the entire view.
It was terrifying.
How Are The Kids Alright?
Where before, I had only been paying attention to my son’s path, I now was watching a literal hurling of tiny bodies all over that maze of twists and turns.
Children took to the monkey bars with gusto, no thought to the children heading straight for them in the other direction — with just as much gusto. Just as I was sure legs would be kicking abdomens and children would be writhing in pain on the ground, someone would change course and the bloody scene in my mind would (thankfully) not come to pass.
And then there were the children beneath the monkey bars. They ran freely back and forth, no thought to the violently swinging athletic shoes inches above their heads. Just as I was certain some child was about to be knocked out cold, that child would pick up speed at just the right moment — or even fall to the ground, narrowly avoiding a swift kick in the head.
There were the two children who were running with great speed towards the same set of stairs from opposite ends of the playground. Amazingly, their speed and angle were completely synchronized and they reached the stairs at the exact same moment. Just as I cringed at the impending sound of heads knocking together — and then into the pole right next to them — they both saw each other and fell to the ground. Laughing, they hopped up and resumed their frantic running, never knowing I almost witnessed their deaths.
And little 2-year-old Rex was happily darting in and out of this melee over and over on his cycle of stairs, bridge, slide. He was almost stepped on as he darted under a big kid who had decided to swing his body at the top of the steps. He almost collided with several children. And he was almost run over on the slide by a big kid who moved faster than him.
But each time he almost became severely injured, some sort of magic happened to stop the trajectory of bodies. I can’t explain how this phenomenon occurred because it certainly made no sense to my eyes. Yet it happened again and again.
In fact, the only person at risk of injury last night was me. Can you give yourself a heart attack? Because I think I was walking dangerously close to one with all my panicking.
When I felt I had seen enough near-misses and miracles for one evening, Rex and I made our way back to the skate park where I recounted the details of the playground to my husband.
“It must be angels,” he matter-of-factly said. “They’re probably getting a workout over there.”
Just then, my 5-year-old begged me to watch the cool, new move she had perfected on her scooter. As she rode over the edge of the sidewalk and into a deep bowl, I watched in horror as another child did the same — but on the opposite side of the bowl. They headed straight for each other at high speed, when suddenly there was a shift in direction by one of them — and they both unceremoniously avoided a trip to the ER.
“Angels indeed,” I thought.
Thank goodness they don’t seem to mind the overtime.