When playgrounds fight back

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You know when you’ve got a perfect Sunday in the spring. “The birds are back in town” – and may or may not wake your wife up just a bit too early. Hey, the windows were open because there’s no topping a cool, crisp, freshness during the night. The temperature dips around the mid-50s in the early morning then climbs to a steady 73-75 at mid-day. There isn’t 1 visible cloud in the entire sky, and the plants are finally starting to buy the fact that it’s springtime (we’re in Ohio and day-to-day temperature fluctuations can be astronomical this time of year – flowers, freezing, flowers,…).


Monica and I knew this was one such Sunday. Most of the weekend chores were done on Saturday so we had some spare time. Secondly, we were in that solid window before dinner and right after Clara’s afternoon nap. Timing was right. It also just so happens our neighborhood park was recently acquired by Columbus Metro Parks. Not sure how much improvement could be made to a park that we already loved, but we decided to find out.




First of all, we’ll note 2 changes to the park: 1) new signage reflecting the ownership change – minimal impact, and 2) the addition of park rangers – they were literally directing us where to park. Hence the emphasis. Aside from that, all seemed normal.


Last year, we had been mostly restricted to the jogging/walking path surrounding the park. With Clara only a few months old, there wasn’t a whole lot she could enjoy on the playgrounds. This year though – new ballgame. We’ve got slides, tree houses, monkey bars, swings, plastic drums,… I mean, where was this place when I was a kid?? No worries, I’m here now. We’ll get to why that’s a problem in a minute.


Clara tried the swing. Eh. She was lukewarm on that. You know what she did love? Running around the mulched playground stealing balls from unsuspecting kids. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little proud. After awkward apologies to the kids’ parents and returning the balls all was forgiven.


Because you can’t just let a 14-month-old run around solo, either Monica or I were right behind her. When Clara ran up on this keyboard device it was my shift. And I was so grateful.




We had 8 keys and 4 classic pieces of music. Only the best. Gems like: ‘Mary had a little lamb.’ ‘three blind mice.’ and ‘row, row, row, your boat.’ I took band in the eighth grade and I’ll say there’s nothing like good sax (I played the saxophone). Nothing other than this keyboard, I mean.


Clara was standing on the left and cautiously pressing keys. We’ve always thought she had some musical genes – she loves to bang her toys on the wooden floors (percussion) and yells sings often. I tried my hand at being the good dad and teaching her the songs. Her musical abilities must have already advanced past ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ because she ran off with Monica to try the next toy. I hardly noticed.


I was sucked into a fantasy where happiness rested on how closely my renditions resembled the songs – and happiness was high. I finished the first and transitioned straight into the second. I’m sure Mozart would have been proud.


Around the time I got midway through the third song, I had that feeling. You know, the one where you feel someone watching you, or standing closely behind you? Yea, that one. I glanced over my left shoulder and became instantly embarrassed.


A mother was standing with her hand on the shoulder a little girl who must have been her 2-year-old daughter. Just waiting patiently. Waiting for me to finish playing with the ‘toy.’ The girl hadn’t said anything as I think I saw the mother mouthing, “He’s almost done, honey.”


I instantly grabbed my coffee cup (yes it was 4:00 and yes it was turning into the kind of day when you need that second cup), put my sunglasses on, pivoted on my right foot to make a 180, and stood. I stood quickly and with force. About halfway up I noticed my sunglasses flying off my head and the coffee cup flipping toward the ground – then I saw stars and fell backward. I didn’t go down but I stumbled. It’s been many moons since I had felt this feeling but a few seconds later I recognized what had happened.




I was so in the music-making zone that I didn’t take stock of my surroundings to notice the bridge over my right shoulder.


Neither did I notice the vertical steel bars (I’ll refer to them as blades from here on out) that supported said bridge. At least the kids are safe…




I realized 4 things right then:


1) It’s only cool to play with the toys if your kid is there with you


2) I’m 30 and had way too much fun playing a child’s musical instrument. Am I in the wrong field? Do I need professional help? We’ll explore those in other posts.


3) Although parents can and should have fun with their kids, we should also realize the toys are not designed with us in mind. This playground injury is on me. My bad.


4) My dad-of-the-year bid has some room to improve.


Also – to the little girl waiting behind me – my apologies for making you wait, but wasn’t that thing awesome!?!


Thanks for reading!


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I’m glad you’re here. Thanks again and talk soon!


– Mike
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