Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Defense! Defense!

The last two nights we brought Olive to a big playground about a mile away from us. We have a small playground right across the street from us, so why do we drive to a different one? First, the playground across the street is usually patronized by the two five-year-old creepy twin girls who like to try and kidnap Olive, bring her down slides, and use her as their personal cabbage patch doll. I am terrified of them. They remind me a little bit of Middle Eastern versions of the twins from The Shining. And Olive is pretty scared at this point too. If they come within two feet of her she turns and runs for mommy and daddy, hands straight up in the air, screaming like a banshee. I may consider allowing her to carry mace. Or maybe one of those whistles they give to girls their first day of college.

Also, the point of bringing Olive to the playground at all is to get her to run around, climb up some stuff, and tire her self out so she’ll go to sleep as soon as we get home. The playground across the street is a little small and, more importantly, covered in woodchips. Olive likes to eat woodchips. She runs around for about five minutes and then plops down on the ground to start her meal. Not achieving our mission.

If she manages to avoid the attraction of delicious shredded cedar, Olive gets distracted by the tennis court next to the playground. If people are playing on it, she points, says some form of the word “ball” and makes a bee line for the court. Only she doesn’t want to watch. She wants to play. Active tennis courts aren’t the safest place for a child Olive’s age. The woodchip and tennis court scenario always usually end up with us picking up a crying Olive and heading back across the street.

So every once and a while we pile in the car and take Olive to this huge playground where there are fewer distractions. No creepy twins. No tennis balls being batted around. And the entire thing is covered in the squishy rubber stuff they make running tracks out of – no woodchips.

On Monday, Leanne and I both brought Olive. Tuesday, I flew solo. This is when I started to realize the difference parent to child ratio plays in the playground experience. First, this place is massive. Lots of open space to run around. Lots of steps and slides and ramps to run around. It is a great playground for a kid Olive’s age because it doesn’t try to emulate a Navy SEALS obstacle course. So she takes advantage of it. She roams all over the place and has to touch EVERYTHING. With the parent to child ratio at 2:1, Leanne and I were able to play zone defense. I watched this opening in the ramp and she watched the monkey bars. I was at the bottom of the slide and she was at the top. Sure, there was one small breakdown in communication where I almost let Olive take a fall from a three foot high platform, but we were positioned well enough that we could close in pretty quick.

When I took Olive there alone, I had to play straight man-to-man. I spent the entire time no more than two feet from Olive’s person. I had to follow her up to the top of the slide, send her down, and make a quick dash for the bottom. If she went up one side of a ramp, I couldn’t walk around and wait on the other side, I had to stay on my man. When she zigged, I had to zag.

Monday was a much more enjoyable experience. Probably for me and for Olive. Really, as Olive becomes more independent, the day I look forward to the most is when we can take her to the playground and I am comfortable enough to sit on a bench, read the paper, and keep an ear out for the occasional thud and scream.

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