Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Response to the Dumbest Letter to the Editor Ever

Recently, I came across a letter to the editor in my local newspaper that left me feeling a little twitchy. I considered sending in a response, but then I thought posting about it here would be more cathartic for me. The original author may never read this, but at least I won’t have to keep my word count under fifty because I have a lot more than fifty words to say about this article.

Here’s the lo-down on the original letter: a local mom relayed a “frustrating” experience in which she took her seven year old daughters to the park, and upon finding the playground overrun with toddlers, decided they didn’t want to play there for fear of unintentionally hurting the younger kids. The mom is upset that she had to take them to a different park, and is now requesting that parents of toddlers not let their kids use the city parks that have “for children between five and twelve years old” signs on them because it’s unsafe and disrespectful to the kids that the structures are meant for.

Stupid ideas make animated babies cry.
So to recap, mother and children went to the park, smaller kids were playing at the park; mother wants toddlers banned from parks.

Seriously? I mean...seriously?

I don’t even know where to start. Oh, wait. Yes, I do. Did the mom in question make sure that her children refrained from using city parks until after their fifth birthday?

Or I could lead with this: Aren’t those “for children between the ages of five and twelve” signs meant to serve as a reminder that children under five should have proper adult supervision at all times? And also to cover the city’s ass in the event that a parent is dumb enough to try and sue the city after they’re dumb enough to leave their small child unattended on a slide and someone breaks an arm?

No, actually, I’ll begin with a different scenario. There is a huge difference between the ages of five and twelve. I doubt that most twelve year olds enjoy the thought of playing at a park full of seven year olds, probably for the exact reason that this woman’s seven year old daughters didn’t want to play amongst a group of toddlers – because they’d have to adjust their behaviour, which, in the plainest of terms, means toning their shit down a notch so as to make sure not to pummel someone. Now, if these twelve year olds started campaigning to have those younger than them play at separate parks, wouldn’t that seem ridiculous? Wouldn’t we tell them to get over it and that adjusting your behaviour while in the presence of other children, younger or older, is just part of life? Yes. Yes, we would.

See? Nobody is dead. We can do this!
So what if your kid has to adjust her tactics when playing alongside a four year old, or two year old, or a one month old? Is it a tragedy? No. Is it unfair? Hardly. It’s called learning boundaries, and it’s just part of growing up and being part of a community. I expect my two year old to be mindful of other kids around her, especially when they’re younger than her, so why should someone’s seven year old get a free pass from doing the same thing? Kids and adults exhibit all kinds of behaviours at the park, and a lot of them can be infuriating. Here is what I qualify as a valid frustration: kids pushing each other, parents not supervising their children, an adult creeper, kids bullying other kids, parents bullying other parents, parents bullying children, someone throwing sand, mulch, or stones, or someone poking someone else’s eye out with a stick. Do you know what an invalid frustration would be? SCOFFING AT TODDLERS WHO ARE EXPLORING AND HAVING FUN AND ARE UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF ADULTS.

The woman also mentioned that there are toddler specific structures at parks all around our city. I’d like to point out that I live within walking distance of six parks, only one of which has toddler specific equipment. The only other two I’m aware of are at least a fifteen minute drive from my house. Now, maybe there are a whole slew of these fancy-pants parks with toddler equipment around, but I’m sure that there are a ton of families with kids under five who do not live within walking distance of them. I’m also sure that we can all agree it would be absurd to ask these parents to find and drive to a fancy-pants park every time their kid wants to play outside. Besides, what does this woman expect parents of multiple children to do? If you’ve got one kid that meets the “age requirement” and one that doesn’t, are you supposed to forego trips to the park altogether, or does your younger child have to sit on the grass watching all the big kids play?

I’ll give this mom one thing – she has obviously taught her kids about being respectful towards children younger than them, as demonstrated by their choice not to play on the slides that day for fear of hurting someone else by accident. That’s great; truly, I applaud that. Now what about teaching them about making a choice and living with it? The girls chose not to play while the toddlers were on the playground. They could have played anyway and simply adjusted their behaviour, but they chose not to and I doubt that anybody forced them to make that decision. Same as nobody forced the mother to take her kids to another park; they very well could have found something else to do until the toddlers were done. The mother could’ve suggested the girls play tag, have a picnic, have a handstand contest, pick flowers- shall I continue? Nobody forced her kids to not play on the playground and nobody forced her to take them somewhere else, so she should stop acting like that’s what happened and stop trying to force toddlers to go elsewhere as well.

Quite frankly, as long as my daughter has adult supervision, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be allowed on a “non-toddler specific” park. Kids aren’t in danger of getting hurt simply because there is someone bigger or older around. They’re in danger when someone is acting like a jackass, no matter what their age. A two year old can accidentally hurt another two year old just as easily as a seven year old could, and a seven year old can injure another seven year old just as easily as they could someone smaller. I understand that having an adult around doesn’t eliminate the risk, but it’s the best chance at minimizing it, and that’s pretty much all you can ask for. Banning one age or another from a playground isn’t going to necessarily keep anyone safe, so let’s just focus on teaching our children to learn some boundaries and respect each other, and hope for the best.


P.S. I know that this was my longest rant to date, but it was either write a two page letter on my blog or track this woman down and smack-attack the bitch. 

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