I don’t know how I evolved this way — perhaps too many years in the public-sector — but I have become a little too risk-averse when it comes to parenting. Before Caleb takes a leap my mind would have computed the 21 ways he could fall and hurt himself. If he does indeed fall, I’d have a “I told you so”. This severely inhibits their growth, and I’m making a conscious effort to let them calculate their own risks and leap forward.
When Polliwogs asked if I’d like to take Anne and Caleb to visit their new outlet at Vivocity, I jumped at the chance. Not to much for the children to explore, but it was more for me to disengage my risk-assessing brain. It helps that Polliwogs’ playgrounds put a lot of consideration for the children’s safety: every possible surface is cushioned, every corner covered. Even the balls that fly out of the pneumatic cannons are made of soft foam (doesn’t hurt upon impact), while the balls in the children’s ball pit (at the bottom of some really awesome slides) are larger and made of plastic (easier to keep clean).
But children — let me qualify this: my Caleb — have a way of finding ways to make your heart palpitate. Just minutes into playing, Caleb was already seeing if he could leap off one platform, grab on to a hanging thingimajig, climb and sit on it without touching the ground. As he leapt, a group of mothers around me shrieked. He failed to mount up said thingimajig, swung around and knocked his back on some supporting pillars. Good thing they were cushioned. He got off, gave me a big smile. Now at least he knew how close or how far he was from achieving the stunt he had envisioned. Nothing beats learning things firsthand, I suppose.
Anne spent most of her time trying out some new-fangled trampoline contraption (I clearly do not know the names of theses things), bouncing up and down on the different coloured strips. Caleb, still training to be the next Indiana Jones, fell in love with the zipline. He was too short to reach it so I carried him up. After that he was very sure he could jump up and catch on to it if he had a running start. His first few attempts were one-handed grabs, and he came back with rope burns on his palms. Seeing that I wasn’t particularly concerned about them, he continued playing with the zipline.
I think there were many learning opportunities within the Polliwogs playground. The foamball cannons, situated at a height, had to be fed foamballs by other kids who were at the bottom level through a series of pneumatic tubes. The kids (well most of them anyway) learned to give and take. My kids also learned that they sometimes had to share their Dad: I was on zipline duty for quite a while, hoisting every interested kid who was too short.
But most importantly of all, I think it was a good place for me to let go of my own inhibitions. Risks here were tolerable and I could allow my children to exercise their creativity a little bit more. I still had to consciously bite my tongue from time to time, but it was nice knowing that for the most part, they’d land on cushioned surfaces.