Today it was a beautiful spring day. A sunny day with a cool breeze, the absolute perfect day for being outdoors. I took my four plus two friends for an afternoon at the park. When we arrived, I could see that this was a popular idea. Our neighborhood park, which is usually only lightly populated on a weekday afternoon, was fairly packed. After a few minutes on the playground, it became clear that there was a class or two from the neighborhood school having a picnic.
My crew ran to the merry-go-round. Several got on, the youngest started pushing. It was a beautiful moment. The sun, the breeze, the kids laughing and playing. Some of the other kids wanted to join in and started walking toward the merry-go-round. From behind me came the sound of a whistle and "Second graders, the merry-go-round is OFF LIMITS!!"
My crew looked all around, mouths wide open. The question on their face: "What on earth was that?" Then back to playing. Pretty soon, more kids ran to the merry-go-round, loud whistle, and "Second graders, the merry-go-round is OFF LIMITS!" My kids are again looking all around, wondering what is going on here and decide to move on to something else.
The park has some big cement letters that spell out the name of the park. Kids are always climbing on these letters. Mine decided to head that way and began climbing. Some of the other kids started to join in and then: loud whistle and "Climbing the letters is OFF LIMITS!!"
I had planned to take the kids for ice cream after the park, so at this point I decided we might ought to go sooner than later. At the word "ice cream" the kids were just fine with moving on. I was surprised that the kids didn't ask about the scene at the park. It was on my mind as we drove toward the ice cream store. Why is the merry-go-round off limits? Why not let the kids climb on the concrete letters? These are kids. At a playground. (And the whistle.....is it just me, or does it seem like that ought to be on its way out?)
So what about limits? Why be limited? Why not say "yes" whenever you can? And what about risk? All my favorite playground toys from my childhood are disappearing from playgrounds: the merry-go-round, the teeter-totter, the bumpy slide. I suppose they were considered dangerous, but those are what I remember playing with most. And truly, I would have to say that most of the good things in life come with some risk. If you want to avoid all risk, you miss out on an awful lot of growth and fun!
So, today I said "yes" to ice cream. Then I said "yes" to the splash park. I watched six children engaged in some serious whole-hearted play while I enjoyed the breeze and the sunshine. A knee was scraped, a few tears shed, but I don't think there are any regrets. They played tag in the grass to dry off a bit, but ultimately piled in my van dripping wet, where I then said "yes" to inviting their friends to stay for dinner and more play. The big two made a movie. The little four played on the swings, built sand castles and put together bouquets. I got to watch it all from my porch.
And it was such a fun-packed day that we have no pictures to show for it, but I think it is a day we will always remember.