I was at the gym last week, or the week before. I don’t know, I’ve been since then, but this conversation happened a couple of weeks ago, and i’m just now getting around to writing about it. Anyway, the group and I were talking about playing with our kids. Being the honest type, I confessed: I hate playing with my kids. I really do. They admitted the same. Playing with your kids is mind numbing.
Don’t mistake that for not wanting to spend time with them. I do love spending time with them. But the words: “Do you want to play legos with me?” There’s an audible sigh that I emit. “Isn’t there anything else we can do? Play a game, do a puzzle, read the bible?” I loved playing with them when they were younger, but I’m really shitty at playing with my kids. It’s like yoga, I’ve admitted that I suck at it, I find alternatives and move on. Please don’t make me play My Little Ponies.
I heard this phrase on a blog a couple of weeks ago. In her bio, she described herself as a “play-at-home mom.” The gagging sound that I made was loud. Look, you can be whatever you want to be. If you love it, awesome. But you make me gag. My mother didn’t hang out with me all day. She had shit to do. Kids weren’t shoved up on a pedestal when I was growing up. “See you for dinner, now get the hell out of the house.” I went and made my own memories. I had my own adventures. A lot of them were pretty awesome, and my mom knew I could take care of myself.
Somewhere in the last 10-15 years, the term “helicopter parent” became a buzz word. And I’ll be the first to admit, I live with that anxiety. And more parents spend time working remote, which means we’re all up in each other’s business. It’s becoming ridiculous. I’m trying to let go of that constant monitoring. I don’t want to be cutting my kids’ steak until they’re forty.
When we moved, one of the great selling points of this new house, was the backyard. On top of it being flat and huge, there’s a patch of woods behind our house. Just big enough for them to have adventures, but small enough that they won’t get lost. I had a patch of woods like this by my primary childhood house. It was awesome. We had ramps back there. We’re hoping to make it something special for them. Where they can feel as if they have the freedom to play, without my stomach feeling heavy all the time. I mean, let’s face it, spend a couple of hours on reddit and you’ll hear the scariest shit about people being molested or nearly kidnapped, or actually kidnapped. I don’t really care if these are made up stories or not. I don’t need that sort of worry. I probably should have thought about that before I procreated, but I can’t give them back now.
There’s a great article over at The Atlantic, about these Playgrounds popping up in the UK. “The Land” is what they’ve termed an “adventure playground,” Which is basically what we would know as an abandoned lot, when we were kids:
The playgrounds were novel, but they were in tune with the cultural expectations of London in the aftermath of World War II. Children who might grow up to fight wars were not shielded from danger; they were expected to meet it with assertiveness and even bravado. Today, these playgrounds are so out of sync with affluent and middle-class parenting norms that when I showed fellow parents back home a video of kids crouched in the dark lighting fires, the most common sentence I heard from them was “This is insane.” (Working-class parents hold at least some of the same ideals, but are generally less controlling—out of necessity, and maybe greater respect for toughness.) That might explain why there are so few adventure playgrounds left around the world, and why a newly established one, such as the Land, feels like an act of defiance.
“This is insane.”
I said that exact same thing. But, honestly, we found this sort of shit when we were kids. All over the place. Abandoned playgrounds, houses (I remember finding an abandoned farm house as a tween. It was a decent bike ride, requiring me to ride on a major road, and also a very narrow, winding back road, notorious for accidents. The house obviously was a great place for teens to party), walking on railroad tracks.
And kids need to have these adventures to learn how to solve problems. I understand that, but getting over my own fear of illogical thinking that the shitty patch of woods behind my house is teeming with pedophiles and kidnappers isn’t easy. And there’s the guilt of making them go off on their own. The alternative is that my already shitty time management skills are compromised, because I’m not teaching them how to be alone. And God Damnit, I don’t want to play Legos anymore.