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Beware the Slide!

Here is the headline on a recent NY Times blog: A Surprising Risk for Toddlers on Playground Slides.
( Surprising risk? For my child? Uh oh, this is clearly important. Better read it right away. 

The article turns out to be about the dangers of a small child going down the slide on his parent's lap. Unfortunately, for both parent and child, the child can accidentally catch his foot on the side of the slide while going down and break his leg. Says the article: "This may be one of those counterintuitive cases when a child is safer by himself. If a foot gets caught while the child is sliding alone, he can just stop moving or twist around until it comes free. But when a child is sitting in an adult lap, the force of the adult’s weight behind him ends up breaking his leg."

A two year old with a broken leg is really sad. Even worse is how bad that parent is going to feel when all she was doing was trying to help her kid have a fun time at the playground. So the article offers this helpful tidbit: "To prevent the injury, the best solution is to allow a child to slide by himself, with supervision and instructions on how to play safely. Young children can be placed on the slide at the halfway point with a parent standing next to the slide. At the very least, parents should remove a child’s shoes before riding down the slide with the child on their laps, and make sure the child’s legs don’t touch the sides or sliding surface."

I am all for preventing injuries. But do we really need a whole article warning parents of the dangers of sliding with their kids? An article with a scary, eye-catching headline guaranteed to make already neurotic NYC parents terrified of playgrounds. 

Yes you need to be careful where and how your child plays. Don't let them climb too high, stand under them if they do, catch them at the bottom the slide if you must. But eventually they are going to fall down. They are going to bleed. Perhaps (and we have been very lucky with Maya so far) they may even break something. I am not saying we shouldn't try to prevent this if we can. But while you are writing helpful articles for parents, how about writing one that tells them that they cannot control everything. And if they try, not only will they make themselves crazy, but they will end up raising a whiny, terrified adult who cannot handle any difficulty.

Listen people, accidents happen. When I was a kid I fell off of the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park and hit my head. (I still have a tiny bump as a souvenir) Were my parents neglectful? Should someone have written an article about the dangers of climbing statues? Of course not. Kids have been climbing that statue for years. Maya has climbed that statue. Kids climb things. And sometimes they fall off. Had I been climbing up the Empire State Building, now that would have been neglect.

Guess what Park Slope moms, your kid might eat ice cream someday. Even if you ban all ice cream trucks and candy shops and black people who are not your nanny from the bubble that is your child's world, they still might encounter something that makes you uncomfortable. I hope to God they do. Otherwise what is the point of being a kid?

That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when your kid climbs to the top of the ladder? That is parenthood at its best. The post Halloween tummy ache? Likewise. Taking your kid to the ER because he fell off the swing? That is a hellish nightmare. But it is the price you pay for letting your kid be a kid. Sometimes accidents happen.

You know what other accidents happen? Your child overcomes fears. She learns that she can do things by herself. When she falls down she learns that she can actually stand up on her own. She "accidentally" gains self confidence, pride, independence. All those things that parents are so afraid of because it means they might have to actually find something else to do other than hover over their kid 24/7.  

So yes please be careful on the slide. Don't eat yellow snow. Look both ways before crossing. And then when you are done with that, let your kid take his shoes off and walk in the mud. Turn on Sesame Street sometimes ( Not only will you get an hour of peace and quiet but your kid will "accidentally" learn the alphabet). And for godssake let them eat a Chipwich. And while you are at it, get one for yourself. I mean really, when was the last time you had any fun?


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