Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The playground.

A few weeks ago I've read a post by a parent of a child with Cerebral Palsy who complained about the lack of playgrounds kids with limited mobility can use. To me, the question sounded more like a plea for advice. What to do, so the child has a positive experience. So he and or doesn't feel excluded from the games and activities and has fond memories of what a playground should be. So it doesn't feel like yet another reminder of the bodily limitations. A playground should be a place for fun, freedom and expression, something we all look forward to. I grew up in times terms like
'accessible this" or "inclusive that" were hardly in the dictionaries, let alone a major concern for anyone. I grew up in a country, where people with disabilities were not expected to be seen in public or be out and about using public facilities. But my take on the matter hasn't really changed. Regardless how "inclusive" or "accessible" some areas may be, the responsibility of assuring a fun and enchanted childhood always must fall on the parent. You can't really get around some mobility limitations- but a mom or a dad can step in and level the plane, so to speak. Be involved as much or make up for what the child's own body doesn't allow them to do. I think I've written about it before. When I was very little, five, maybe- six perhaps- my parents were like invisible motors on my back. They felt invisible because, while they would grab me under my arms and lift my weight so I could "walk" while they were holding me, to me and my friends playing it was as if they were not there. My mom and dad wanted me to have a sense of what it's like to run along with other kids. I couldn't do it myself, so they were there to give me that "boost". I loved "running" (as my mom held me) with my cousins in my grandfathers orchard. We had our secrets and treasures while items like an old, abandoned refrigerator felt like the best toy. Or "walking" in the garden. My fun was fully dependent on their participation and willingness to go outside with me, yet somehow I didn't feel limited. The things I remember included playing hopscotch and house with the kids in the courtyard play area outside our building. I knew my mom was there, but she just wasn't the focus. An almost silent participant. The point was, to have me included.  Kids have a short attention span and they were bored easily. The point was to have me always at the center, so they would not simply move on elsewhere and leave me behind. This also allowed my mom to intervene in any brewing conflict between me and the kids, steer the games so they would always have fun. My mom was always creative and she loved children. But my two cousins who were my age and who I often spend summers with had a nasty habit of turning on each other to the exclusion of the third one, with the other two forging alliances and secret pacts. Those are some of my earliest childhood memories and I'd say one of the happiest. As I grew older I wasn't "running" with my mom behind my back anymore, but the principle was similar. Create games, activities and environment that would draw other kids in and make me- essential. And then, always keep an eye on the dynamic in the group. In elementary school we always had a house full of kids. It helped that I myself had a vivid imagination and could make a toy out of things like a tape recorder- when we recorded our own shows. Then we had the computers. And the VCR. Or we'd go biking  with my dad. And I had the older brother I suspect most of my classmates were envious of. One month, when he borrowed a camera from my cousin me and my friends filmed a murder mystery we've had a blast putting together. Yes, I do things differently and I've had severe limitations, but my childhood was never boring and my parents made it fun and very... normal 


  1. You really nailed it! I love this post. Yes, this is what I was looking for and coming from the perspective of an adult who has such fond memories of play during his childhood, it means a lot to me. THANK YOU! for taking the time to advice and impact my daughter's life for the better.

  2. Yes, this is what I do with my son too, but it is SO much work. Give your mom a big hug thanks the next time you see her! And buy her a massage. I'm sure her back is still aching from all that. :)