Ah, the sun is shining, the grass is freshly cut and the weather has hit that perfect point where a light jacket is all you need. This is the best time of year to go to the playground with the kids.
Unfortunately, the playground is also a perpetual death trap, filled with danger at the top of every ladder and the bottom of every slide.
I’m not a helicopter parent, which means I generally sit and wince from a distant bench while my children dodge the Grim Reaper for a few hours.
I’m not saying that you should avoid the playground. I’m just saying that these eight things will at some point threaten your child’s life while you’re there, so, you know, watch out for them:
1. The drop-offs
Every single play structure I have ever seen has these wicked drop-off points. Really, it’s just an opening to allow a child to climb onto it via a rock wall or ladder. But, for the weary parent, these are 6-foot (or higher) free falls in-waiting, tempting a toddler to take one step too many.
2. The big kids
There’s always a big kid there, and he doesn’t give a flying squirrel about your little kid. If your kid is in front of the big kid at the slide, guess who is getting shoved out of the way? If your kid is taking too long to climb the steps, that big kid is going to literally walk on top of him, using your kid as his personal red carpet to the monkey bars.
3. The gross kids
All kids are gross. Admittedly, at any given moment, one of my children has either a finger up the nose or a hand down the pants. But at least those are MY kids. For some reason, it’s so much sicker when it’s someone else’s kids. You’d think that boogers would just be boogers, but I’d way rather wipe my kid’s nose than some other kid’s nose. And I’d really prefer for some other kid not to wipe his nose all over the ladder my daughter is about to climb.
4. The bucket swings
So, scientifically, these “baby” swings are like, super safe, right? Something about how tall they are and the weight and the swinging motion means your kid should be secure. You know that, but then your kid wants a “big push,” and you oblige because you trust decades of aerodynamic research. Even still, you can’t help but cringe as the swing climbs high and your child seems on the brink of falling out, landing on his head and breaking his neck.
5. The ladders
It sounds ridiculous that I get nervous watching my daughter climb a ladder. I have seen her climb our cabinets – which have no rungs – to get on top of the counter to reach the cookies on top of the fridge. Surely, she would have no issue when presented with actual bars to step on and grasp. Yet I can’t help but think, “All it takes is one slip of her foot on the snot that gross kid left behind and BAM – all her teeth will be splattered onto the mulch.”
6. The sandbox
I don’t even want to know what germs are lurking in there. I know they are going into my daughter’s mouth one way or another. I just tell myself that “it’s good bacteria” and hope for the best.
7. Other parents
I see you watching your kid, understandably worried about your child playing at Satan’s doorstep, aka the top of the jungle gym. I’m kind of scared that my kid is going to do something (accidentally) to your kid, and you’re going to be so strung out from being on high alert for 90 minutes that you might just lose it on my child.
Yup, put me on the list of greatest dangers at the playground. Not because of what I will do, but because of what I won’t do. Despite all these imminent threats, I still take my eyes off my kids from time to time to check my phone or pretend to be interested in something on the bottom of my shoe to avoid small talk with a fellow parent. I won’t chase my children around with a safety net, which may or may not lead to their demise.
It’s a playground. It’s awful, and it’s scary, but it’s an inevitable part of parenting. So suck it up, grab the baby wipes and head out there.