I take S to the park fairly often. We live around the corner from one, and there’s another not too far away so we’ll often wander off to one or the other for some fun.
As S has grown, she’s become more adventurous. She wants to climb on things that previously she’s been happy to leave to the older children. That has brought with it a new set of problems – not least that I spend a lot of time trying to to grab her and carry her home to the safety of the sofa!
The thing about going to the park is that you never know who else is there. And spending time with other children means you don’t know how others choose to parent their children. I was always told off for climbing up a slide rather than using the steps for it; I remember getting into lots of trouble if I tried it, whether there was another child at the park or not.
Several times at the park we’ve come across the same little boy. He comes to the park with his father, who sits on a bench and plays with his phone, looking up every now and then to make sure the boy is not dangling precariously from something. The boy does as he pleases, and seems mostly happy with that. He’s not naughty or disruptive; he doesn’t try to break or kick anything. But he does climb up the slide more than he slides down it. And I try to be polite about telling him to get himself out the way so that S can slide down!
More recently we were there with friends when a family of children arrived and began playing on the climbing frame. One little boy in particular would climb up the slide, then climb onto the top of the frame at the top. Others would climb up the outside of the tunnel ladder (seen in the photo above) before somehow maneuvering themselves onto the platform at the top. There was also swinging from bars at the top of ladders when children were trying to climb up them.
At first I was really cross; these children were disrupting my poor baby’s park fun. She would stand and wait her turn while they would climb quickly up the ladder, come down the slide and then beat her to it to climb back up the ladder before she’d even gotten started. They didn’t wait their turn, and they didn’t play by the rules.
The rules in my head, that is.
I began to realise that perhaps the problem was more with me than with them; S is 3 and very adventurous; she wants to climb on the higher parts of the climbing frame, but I won’t let her because I can’t reach to get her down, and am scared of heights. These children showed no fear; they climbed up and over things quickly and with ease, as if they did this every day – perhaps they do. They didn’t wait to be beaten to the top of the ladder; if someone else was on it, they just climbed up beside the person and overtook them.
Perhaps these children are just more creative, able to think outside of the box and see a different way of doing things. Perhaps I am teaching S to conform to arbitrary rules, to be too typically English and deferential and polite. Perhaps none of these things will serve her well in later life.
One little boy appeared to be younger than S, but he climbed up the outside of the tunnel ladder so quickly, deftly jumping onto the platform and speeding down the slide before running on to do the next thing. I was about to tell him not to climb up the outside of the tunnel – in that way parents have when they forget it’s not their child they’re watching. And then I caught myself, and realised how stupid it was, to tell a child not to climb up a ladder, inside or outside of the tunnel.
Does it matter if he wants to climb up the outside? Surely doing something different is to be applauded in this day and age? I wonder if I’m better off sitting on a bench, playing on my mobile until S calls me for some help – rather than standing behind her with my hands out just in case! Perhaps S would be better off with that too.
After all, isn’t childhood where you learn to fall over, and then get back up again – perhaps one of the biggest and most important lessons a child can learn. And without her mother breathing down her neck, S might be more creative in her play and climbing. I am sure she can sense my fear as she climbs, and it can’t be good for her adventurous spirit!