By Kathleen Guthrie Woods
I love playgrounds. I love following my nephews down the slides and pushing my nieces in the swings as they squeal, “Higher, Aunt Kath, higher!” I love the smells of grass and sand, and that tangy scent from old metal swing chains and jungle gyms. When I take one of the many little humans in my life out for a play date, a nearby park is frequently our destination, and when I’m out on my own or with a dog, I love to sit and simply watch and listen to the sounds of joy and happiness.
Maybe that’s why I take the growing “No Adults Allowed” trend so personally.
As a childfree human, my presence near a playground is now suspect. I am no longer welcome, I am no longer allowed, and it hurts.
I understand the concerns, certainly in light of the horror stories that appear in the nightly news about child abuse and abductions. If I were a parent, I wouldn’t want to be worrying that a serial molester was shooting video of his future victims while I ignorantly let my babies twirl on the merry-go-round.
And yet…parks to me symbolize a little piece of freedom in our ever-stressed-out world. A place where we can run in circles till we fall down in dizzy giggles, or chase a butterfly or kite, or lie in the grass and look for shapes in the clouds. Parks are where we can escape all of our shoulds and should-haves and, for a brief period, let our minds wander and our imaginations expand.
As a child, I loved to create secret missions for myself that involved climbing trees, hiding behind benches, and talking into my watch as I, a super-hero spy, brought down the bad guys (Nancy Drew and Charlie’s Angels were my peers in my fantasy world). These days I’m content to sit on the sidelines, enjoying the cacophony of shouts and laughter as other children create their own adventures. For a few moments, I can soak up a bit of their free-spiritedness, and even allow myself to drift in a big girl fantasy in which one of those sweet voices belongs to a child of mine.
Alas, it’s no longer allowed.
Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. New York’s Central Park, Rome’s Borghese Gardens, and South Pasadena’s Garfield Park are among her favorite places on earth.