Playground safety has been a big news topic lately, and today reader Jenny is weighing in with her opinion.
The other day, a Facebook friend and high school acquaintance posted that her child had broken her arm in five places and was undergoing surgery. Her child had injured herself on the monkey bars at a local park.
Naturally, the mom was freaked about the surgery, upset about the pins that would have to be placed in her child’s arm, traumatized by the emergency room. I understand that completely. What I couldn’t understand was her next statement, which was along the lines of “I will be campaigning to have monkey bars removed from local schools and parks.”
My mind reeled. Children have broken bones and injured themselves since time began. It used to be a sort of rite of passage for children. But, as playground equipment has become more sanitized because of so-called safety (read: liability) issues, I hear about injuries less and less. On the face of it, less injury sounds like a good thing, right? But less injury actually might mean less meaningful play and comprehensive exercise. The United States is a nation of overweight children. Do we really need to remove apparatus from playgrounds because of the mere chance of an injury?
Here’s a grown-up example for you: my hobby is aerial static trapeze. I’m totally obsessed with it, have been training for about a year and a half, and recently performed at an open air street fair in Los Angeles. My performance was great, but when I came down for a landing, I blew out my ACL in my left knee. The rehab has been annoying, but I’m back at class after a month off.
Now, when this unfortunate injury occurred, did I blame the event? Did I blame the apparatus, or my aerial arts school? Did I declare the trapeze unsafe for everyone because of a freak injury I suffered? Of course not. Injuries happen, and the possibility of an injury is there every time you do anything physical, from walking down the street to swinging from a trapeze to standing in the shower.
This same logic applies to children. They are physical beings. They will do risky things. Most of the time, they’ll be fine. Every so often, though, they get injured. And so it goes with the monkey bars.
I am not trivializing my Facebook friend’s anxiety over her child. Surgery is no joke. She has every right to be upset and ask for support from friends and family. And she certainly can demand that her child, from this day forward, refrain from swinging from the monkey bars. But… that’s a rule for her child. It shouldn’t be a policy for everyone else’s child.