I was visiting a friend in Chattanooga this weekend, taking some photos of her kids on the playground (and enjoying the monkey bars myself), when I had an epiphany. I realized that grown people really don't have any place like this for themselves, somewhere to run around and be silly and hang upside down — and that's just a damned shame!
The idea that playgrounds should be reserved just for minors is ludicrous — who says that you have to stop swinging and climbing and spinning around once you hit adulthood? I actually think that the world would be a better place if every citizen above the age of 18 were required to have a daily recess period like we did when we were little. But just this week, a friend told me that recess has been cut to 15 minutes a day at her kid's school — that's barely enough time to line up, get outside, and come back in again! So I guess its not even acceptable for children to have playtime anymore (much less grown-ups) — and we've got a generation of increasingly sedentary and obese adults to look forward to (but that's probably another rant for another day!)
What's even more absurd is the idea that adults are LEGALLY not allowed on many playgrounds without a child in tow! Technically speaking, I can not sit on a bench and watch a group of kids that don't belong to me without risking a fine (a woman in New Jersey was ticketed for this very activity in 2005, and threatened with a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail — how dare she pause to enjoy childish laughter at the Rivington Playground while waiting for an arts festival to start in another area of the park!) On some level, I can understand why reactionary parents have pushed for these ordinances — they are concerned about their children's safety, they want to prevent sleazy pedophiles from doing unsavory things in the same place where their kids play, and many cities think the measure will prevent playground vandalism and save them the cost of having to replace equipment as often. But once again, law-abiding citizens are being punished along with the wrong-doers.
I resent the immediate assumption that I must be a molester or vagrant or somehow up to no good, just because I don't have a kid with me. Why is it illegal for me to take a trip down the slide or see if I can still flip myself up and over the horizontal bar (which I can't, by the way)? I love taking photos of children (with the parent's permission), and then sharing those photos with the families — but Matt may be right when he teases me that I'm going to get arrested and thrown in jail as a stalker. And even if all I want to do is watch kids enjoying themselves and reminisce about my own youth — whose business is that? If you're that paranoid about someone just looking at your child, perhaps you ought not be a parent in the first place! I'm not harming anyone, and there is no reason why this activity should be ILLEGAL. What you do is make unacceptable behavior illegal, regardless of where it occurs. If you don't want folks to prey on children or do drugs or tear up the swingset or having nighttime sex while hanging from the jungle gym, outlaw these activities EVERYWHERE and provide enough police officers so that someone can guard the playground against criminals. But leave me alone!
Part of the reason I don't have children is that I'm too much of a kid myself (some would say immature, but I disagree!) I want to be the one playing on the swingset, running from ride to ride at Disney, and getting an ice cream at the zoo — if I had a child, I would have to let him or her be the center of attention, and that's just not acceptable! Seriously, though, I plan on staying young forever, and it annoys me that so many of the activities I enjoy are set aside just for kids. I was at a Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party for a friend of mine's child one year, and she wanted me to get in the ball pit with her. But the sign said you had to be less than 4 feet tall — I taught Morgan the word “discrimination” that day (all the kids who spend time with me have exceptional vocabularies!) And the thing is, kids actually love me (Crazy Aunt Ramona, with her nose ring and tattoo) — because I am willing to go nuts and goof around with them in a way that their poor, tired, worn-out parents just can't seem to manage any more. So the only thing these ridiculous rules ever do is rob a child of a chance to have a ton of fun with an insane 37-year-old. Sad, really.
If you people with children are so hell-bent against me playing on your kids' turf, design me an adult playground (and I'm not talking about something like Dave And Buster's!) Where's the grown-up sized swingset and monkey bars? Why don't they set aside a separate jumbobouncy-hose and ball pit for big people? This seems like ageism to me — I have just as much right to fun as your toddler! You may try to keep me down, but you can't make me grow up!
In my fascist state, there will be one adult-only playground constructed for each kid-sized playground.
“You know what's good about being in your sixties? Your children are in their forties, so you don't have to worry about child molesters anymore. Unless, of course, one of your forty-year-old children is a child molester!”
Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream with The Husbert and two fur-babies. Learn more at GettingOrganizedAToZ.com and RamonaCreel.com.
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