The other day I took Alder to a New York City playground. It was a Saturday afternoon and it was teeming with kids of different ages. Alder was the smallest one who was out wandering, it seems that most parents think that non walkers should be held at the park. Anyway, the park was alive with activity, there was a hula girl birthday party, all the Orthodox boys were playing cops and robbers (I was corrected by one when I said it was tag)after temple and lots more kids were roaming around. It was a great scene, kids from all over we calling to each other in different languages while parents had casual conversations.
What I found most striking about the whole thing was how it was evident that most of these children had spent their lives at this playground. The older ones played with the younger ones (one three or four year old kept catching leaves for Alder to catch in the 'stream') or even if they were doing something for 'big' kids they would gently move the younger ones to someplace more safe. The boys involved in cops and robbers ran around the park at full speed intent on their game but they didn't once step on or bump on of the smaller children.
When I take Alder to the playgrounds in Denver it is different. The children aren't regulars, they don't have an innate understanding of where other bodies are as they play. They stay to themselves or with the children they already know. The exception to this is the babies and toddlers who find each other bump noses like dogs and climb over each other on their way somewhere.
The other thing missing in Denver is the sprinklers. I don''t mean the sort that water the grass but the ones that water the children. Growing up ours was a glorified shower head but now the park has a flower like sprinkler whose water flows down a pretend Hudson River that even has the towns noted on the sides.
It is easy to understand the difference, the children in Denver don't need their playgrounds, most of them have yards and play equipment of their own, the park is an after thought. In New York where families live in apartments with no yards the playgrounds and the parks are their yards. If I had to choose I am happy to have a yard, but the life in the playground is one of the few parts of growing up in New York that I wish Alder could experience.
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