During a trip to Asheville NC this weekend, we went apple picking. Golden Delicious, Rome, Black Arkansas and Fuji are a few of the perfect round shades of green to deep red that are weighing down my trunk as we head home.
Of course we had to stop at the many attractions that flank these beautiful apple orchards, such as the corn maze
After getting good and lost, back tracking, walking in circles and having our sense of direction generally turned upside down, we stumbled onto a grand playground that could have been a throw back to my childhood. Home made swings, a giant mountain of hay with tunnels, a large trampoline and climbing ropes. In other words, lots of risk and danger :))
What prompted this post was what happened on the tunnel swing.
I know that if you give children the freedom to engage in risky play together they handle it quite responsibly, but it is still such a pleasure to watch it first hand. Without knowing each other’s names there was expert cooperation without any one boss. They took turns pushing and riding without any conversation about it. The older children kept checking in with younger children to see if they needed to slow down or get off. Younger children were watching how the older ones did things and then tried to emulate them. They ran this swing like a well oiled machine, not the accident waiting to happen, it could have been. There are many businesses, organizations and adult groups that could learn from this kind of team work.
An older woman carried over a small child about 3 years old. He did not walk over on his own. He was not drawn to this swing by his own volition. Probably because it was developmentally beyond his risk taking interest. Yet, she placed him on and proceeded to take over pushing the swing. The other children were quiet and let her take the lead as you would expect of respectful children. She began to push. The other children followed her lead to help her. The small child began to lean. She kept pushing. Then he leaned some more. The woman told him to hold on, still pushing. We all looked at each other knowing what was imminent. The child had a look of fear on his face. Then boom. Sure enough he fell off the swing. 😦
Now the woman gasped and ran over to pick him up. What she said next did not surprise me one single bit.
Woman scolding, “You children are pushing it too hard! You shouldn’t be doing that. You are pushing it too hard for little kids! That is why they are going to get hurt!”
Me, “Actually I disagree. They have been doing a very responsible job of working this swing”
The woman huffed off with her crying grandchild in her arms.
I reassured the children that they were working hard to be kind to each other and play together. This was not their fault.
If I could speak to this woman I would advise her to let her grandson pick his own interests to follow on the playground. If and only if, he wanted to ride this swing then he would have been better off with these children helping him. They would have helped him, communicated to make sure he was comfortable and stopped way before he fell all the way off. Having said that, if he had fallen off he would have been helped up and learned a few things about balance and swinging along with a bit of dirt.
Why do adults show so little respect for children? Their interests, instincts and abilities? Maybe because we can.
I have been learning to stand back a little and give children the respect of their own way when appropriate. What I have been given when I do that is the gift of my greatest teachers.
After this incident, another boy came over to the swing and began to play. He said, “you know that woman who picked up that child? She is a teacher at my school and she is really mean.”
Out of the mouths of babes. Enough said.