To Play or Not To Play

Before Ruby was born, my feeling was that I would be an active playground parent.  I’d play with my kids at the park, running around on the climbing equipment, and going down the slides.  I looked with scorn on the parents who parked themselves on the benches and stared blankly from the sidelines while their children ran about. 

But then last week my buddy Chong sent me this article which is making me reconsider:

Or perhaps it’s today’s playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees. And… wait a minute… those aren’t little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it half-easy on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for themselves.

The article goes on to discuss over-protective parenting and the effect it has on children, particularly when they reach college.  Most of it is highly speculative, but the above paragraph struck me.  Children really do need to learn how figure it out for themselves — how to build relationships, negotiate rules, and defuse angry situations.  Ruby will get plenty of playtime with adults throughout her childhood.  When she has a chance for some unstructured interaction with her peers, it’ll be best for me to leave her alone to explore that world on her own terms.

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One Response to “To Play or Not To Play”

  1. Jared Says:

    When I join my son at the playground, it’s not to protect, but to play. My wife stays home with him during the day, while I spend eight hours behind a computer. I’m an opportunist, and I’ll take whatever I can get.

    That said, I do recognize the importance of his interaction with other kids; I’ll step away every so often, and let him be. And when we play together, I let him make mistakes. Unless, you know, health insurance is involved.

    There’s a profound difference between being overprotective and enjoying time with your child, just as there’s a difference between fostering independence and simple neglect. I watch other parents at playgrounds, and see a lot of indifference in their faces.

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