Every Kid Needs To Sit On A Baking Sheet

This summer has so far has been my favorite one as a parent. Finally, at age two and a half, it’s the family life I envisioned when I was first pregnant: splash pads and zoo visits, strawberry picking and playgrounds.

Oh, playgrounds. It’s like a sociological experiment of parenting and the “society of safety” playing out before my very eyes.

Recently, I looked around at a busy park, and I was struck by what I saw. Parents! They were everywhere.

In fact, it seemed every child was accompanied by one… jogging beside them, talking in animated tones and assisting them (regardless of age) up steps, down slides, and into swings. Every child, I should say… except one.

The whole reason I take my kid to the park is to have a break from the overly-interested voice and the constant assistance. “Go play!” I say and then park myself on a bench.

When it gets awkward is when I notice from my perch that other parents are talking to my child. I watched one dad basically holding back his six-year old son at the top of a slide, while my daughter watched intently from the foot of said slide.

“Little girl… move out of the way!” he coaxed in a sing-song voice. She stared.

I watched for a while, thinking… do I get involved? Or pretend I don’t notice? Because here’s my thing. What’s the worst case scenario?

First of all, these are not the slides of our childhood. You know the ones where you climbed up ten (maybe twenty? my height perception is skewed due to how short I was back then…) feet into the air on steep, metal steps with nothing but a tiny bar to grab onto.

Then, you reached the top and try to maneuver your legs underneath you from the step up onto the top of the slide. The width was as narrow as our tiny, childhood hips.

Your legs plop down on the hot as Hades slide like two logs of raw cookie dough slapped down on a baking sheet. Because that’s what it was… a freakin’ baking sheet preheating in the 100 degree Tennessee summer heat.

You push off and race down the steep summit with no guard rails and were dumped out into the mulch. Hopefully, you knew how to stick the landing like Mary Lou Retton, or you were bound to walk away with mulch prints in your hands and melted thighs.

No. That is not the playground equipment for the children of the twenty-teens. It’s wide plastic steps (or maybe a miniature climbing wall) that leads you to an ample platform where you can take your time arranging yourself at the top.

And no need to psych yourself up. These slides are wide, with soft inclines and often have something akin to speed bumps that basically construct a reality where I have watched my two-year old have to literally scoot herself down a slide.

Where is the danger? No. She does not need to be micro-supervised.

Worst case scenario is this dad’s kid manages to dodge all the speed-inhibiting technology incorporated into slides today, catapults himself forward and crashes into Ella.

And the damage? He would bump her, she’d fall onto the mysteriously bouncy padding playgrounds are made of, maybe cry and probably learn to stay out of the way in the future.

More likely, if his dad wasn’t present, the six-year old would probably yell at Ella until she moved. Then, he’d scoot himself furiously down the slide.

Still all seems safer than my memories of the park. Spinning round and round on the tire swing until we thought we’d vomit, dangling precariously from the (again) hot, metal monkey bars suspended high over nothing but dirt and sparse mulch, and trying not to lose a hand whipping around the merry-go-round.

Oh, the good ‘old days. 

Of course, as I shared this post with Billy, he knew exactly the slide I was remembering. He also announced, "We still have those!" As you can see in the picture of Ella last fall at a Guatemalan playground, she'll get to experience the best of both worlds.

What was your favorite childhood summer play? Do you stay close and watch from afar when your kids play?

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  1. Before I continue reading that you DID mention the heat of the slides...that was my first thought. Those HOT HOT metal slides!!! Ouch! But so fast that it was worth it!!!

    1. I know... when you start to think about it, you can almost see the wavy heat rising off the metal! :)

  2. Oh man. No wonder our park play date worked out so well! We have the EXACT same philosophy. That's whats up.

    1. Absolutely! We need to do that again soon....

  3. What a perfect description of those slides! What about those merry-go-round things where everyone would sit on it, then one person would run around to get it started, then try and jump on?

    We still have some of that playground equipment at school, and I am always amazed at how little injuries there are since it really isn't the safest!

    1. Oops - I just reread and noticed you mentioned the merry-go-rounds :)

    2. I forgot about the "jumping-on-while-in-motion" part, though. I was just thinking about how I would try to whip my hand in and out of the spinning bars to push people as fast as my little arms could! Great addition!

  4. haha love this :-) I always wonder what the heck is wrong with these slides when my kids have to scoot themselves down while saying "whee" . . . not fun.

    1. This made me laugh out loud, Becca. The "whee" was just perfect!


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