We arrived at the empty skate park at 9.30am.
The two year old achieves a new ‘first’ by climbing up the mound herself, scaling the fence on the (relatively) steep hill and succeeds in reaching the top of the high ramp and sliding down it with her sister. They get straight into a game of save me while I fall off the ramp complemented with a monster chasing child off of ramp finale.
I don’t cheer her or give her a gold medal and I don’t sit there with my stomach in my throat. Risky play is normal for us these days. Risky play is a decision I made a while ago when I decided to stop being so anxious and worried. I am going to enable my girls to take risks, trust their instincts, their bodies, their boundaries while building their strength and agility.
They do it well and of course we have bruises here and there. I also accept that sometimes serious incidents happen but I don’t believe hovering over them will prevent that.
Sometimes I’ll hover. Like when my squinchy two year old is walking across slim bars that stretches her legs and arms to the max.
I make a conscious effort to butt out unless I otherwise think or feel so.
I know what my children are capable of and I expect that most parents and caregivers do too. Although I do recognise that everyone’s gut instinct may not hold the same strength, therefore I understand that some may not easily access the part of themselves that allows them a deeper sense of discernment. So, I don’t judge hovering parents. Whatever their reason, it’s none of my business.
Baring in mind that I have an extremely strong gut instinct, today, when I was comfortable that my two and five year old were body confident in their risky game, I switched on my phone and thoroughly enjoyed indulging in a very interesting article on one of my favourite topics.
When I finished the third article (because one always leads to another) I said to myself, now, that’s enough and I switched my phone off and put it away. To my surprise I found a man hovering around about 10 feet away from the mound that my girls were playing on. I had noticed him arriving a while before and bringing his own children into the playground.
Despite the fact that he had three children of his own, he left them in the playground to go hover around my kids and give me a body language lecture on what seemed some kind of criticism.
We made eye contact. He seemed surprised that I didn’t hang my head in shame, so I speculate. He turned around and shook his head at me while he walked off.
I laughed inside at two things, the fact that he didn’t have the guts to look me in the eye while he was shaking his head at me and the hypocrisy of this caregiver leaving his own children to climb around a playground unsupervised just to come and pointlessly stare at my two climbing from ten feet away. I don’t know, maybe he can jump ten feet in 0.5 seconds so that if one of my children had fallen he could have saved them. You never know.
Or, he left his own children unsupervised to stare at my children on my behalf so that I could read my articles. How kind.
Or, he is so pleased with his own parenting that when he sees another parent not parenting the way he thinks they should parent he likes to leave his own children unsupervised just so he can go over and shake his head at said failure of a parent.
Did I mention that he left his own children unsupervised so that he could come and supervise my children for me?
So, if there is one single (ok, satirical) reason to look at your phone in a playground it is this:
You might give another person the chance to feel so smug and wonderful about themselves. Although the smugness is a false sense of security, do you know what? A false sense of security is a good start. Fake it till you make it, as they say, and I’m a giver, I can’t help it. I bestoweth upon thee smugness. They can stand there looking at you, or glaring at you to the point that they can no longer see their own children. If they can’t see their own children, for just one moment, you are giving their children the opportunity to play unsupervised. To explore. To take risks. See how much you are giving to the world? Future leaders. Children with self confidence, intuition, self reliance, agility, freedom.
And that is not the only smugness going around. Look at me now, writing this. Smug as fuck because I don’t have a stick up my ass and my hardy kids have knees full of bruises. I read my out of date articles while I trust them to be kids and have fun and connect with their bodies and boundaries. And of all the things I get wrong I get this one thing right (and I get a lot wrong), so do you know what? Thank you.
Thank you, hovering man with what I think is a weird set of priorities. At a period in my parenting timeline when I have heard myself say ‘I am a shit mother’ more times than I can count, you have given me this one moment where I am confident enough to be happy with the decision I made that one time I consciously took my phone out to read articles while my young but capable children engaged in risky play involving uneven ground that contributes to their development in the most incredible of ways far beyond what any flat surfaced playground can offer¹. Thank you,
over concerned citizen, for giving me the opportunity to support myself in reading something that made my brain feel temporarily alive whilst reminding myself that the dates on these articles are from 2015 and January 2016 and that is how many months I am behind in world news because I don’t spend enough time reading articles because I am busy committing myself to “conscious parenting” and general survival.
Read your articles. Close your eyes for ten seconds and breath in. Daydream. Meditate. Chat. Chill out. Read the magazine or stare at your shoes. Its ok to give your kids a little but of well discerned unsupervision sometimes. Its also ok to give other parents some well deserved unsupervison too.
Trust your instincts. Trust their instincts. Discern what you can entrust in them. Trust their abilities, do not judge them on the size of their bodies, their gender or their age.
They can do this, if you let them.
¹Preschool children who play among trees and rocks and who move over uneven ground develop stronger skills in motor coordination, balance and agility than those who play on conventional playgrounds. (Fjørtoft.I(2004) Landscape as playscape: The effects of natural environments on children’s play and motor development. Children,Youth and Environments, 14(2),21-44.