Yesterday I dragged my lazy buns out of the house with the kiddos to a playgroup hosted by my good friend Megan. I am grateful for moms who do such fun things as run playgroups, but for the most part, I am not able to summon up enough energy to attend every week. And in my defense, it’s a 45 minute drive, so I’m not a complete lazy bum…
Anyways, this week’s playgroup was at Jungle Safari, one of those indoor playgrounds…you know the type, with the swinging ropes, the tunnels, and all sorts of various climbing apparatuses. Basically, kid heaven for a three year old. After getting over my germaphobic tendencies (work one day in a hospital, I dare you!), I was really glad we went. It was relatively clean, it was fun to get out of the house, and Ada was having a blast. She even found a little friend, holding hands with her, and much to my horror, sitting down at her table and chowing down goldfish crackers while I fondly watched some random kid in the tunnel, who as it turns out, was not my child. Whoops.
But while enjoying our time at Jungle Safari, I noticed something odd. Amongst all the sweaty, sock-clad children were sweaty, sock-clad…parents? While Megan and I did the proper adult thing to do, and sat back at our table to enjoy watching the kids play, dolling out the occasional “Wait your turn” or “Don’t lick that,” parent after parent around us trailed behind their children in the playground.
At first I thought I was mistaken. Surely no sane parent would willingly descend into the darkness of the Jungle Safari. Perhaps that child was just too young to play safely by herself. Nope, she looks about five. Or, maybe that child just is stuck. Nope, mom is pleading with her to play in a new spot so she can come out of the tunnel. Is that dad really going down the slide? Without his kid? Yes, yes, he is.
What is going on here?
Shouldn’t a child’s playground be just that–a child’s playground? Why on earth are these parents following around their children, “encouraging” them to play? Isn’t that something kids, like, just do?
At one point, I was standing on one side, looking after Mya and another little playgroup baby while Ada tried the netted ladder for the first time. She had trouble at first, her little cankles preventing her from achieving any real vertical gain, and of course, she whined that she couldn’t do it.
Did I climb up there and help her up? Of course not.
But as I stood there and watched Ada try again and succeed with my encouragement, I watched another mom climb up behind her son and when he couldn’t climb up the first time, she lifted him up the next step.
Who did the help, now really?
This post by a mom that I really admire was on my mind as I watched all these parents hindering their children from learning valuable lessons in the Jungle Safari. I thought about how much I do this with Ada–playing guess-what-she-wants when all I need to do is give her time to tell me. After reading the post and witnessing the jungle of the Jungle (ha) I’ve been working on encouraging Ada to use full sentences and be specific, always with a “please” when she wants/needs something. It amazed and worried me how often I had to do this, alerting me to the fact that she usually just blurts out things like “I’m hungry” and expects me to jump on fulfilling her need instantly.
It’s sad how as parents, we try so hard to help our kids…and in the process, end up holding them back.
Here’s to letting kids be kids. And parents?
Try to stay out of the ball pit, ok?