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A playground lesson for parents

Main Line Health Newtown Square August 11, 2015 General Wellness By Elizabeth Bland, MSW, LCSW

two people pushing children on swingsI remember a day, several years ago when they were young, when I took my children to the playground.  I have to be honest, I was worried. It would be the first time that I took my two children – then both under the age of three – to the playground together alone. Could I do it? What if they took off in different directions? What if I lost sight of someone? What if…what if…?

My son hit the ground running. His eyes were the size of saucers and he squealed in delight at the sight of the enormous jungle gym in the distance. With my daughter in my arms, I ran to keep up. I thought, this is never going to work.

But once we started playing, I noticed something pretty amazing happening around me. The park was full of kids and their parents, grandparents, babysitters and other caretakers–all strangers, yet everyone was looking out for each other.

When one man’s voice nervously called out for his son with a slight shakiness as if to say, “Uh-oh, I lost him,” an older woman from the other side of the playground responded, “I see his feet coming through the covered slide…I got him!”

When a little girl fell down and scraped her knee, another parent on the other side of the slide walked over to the girl’s caretaker to offer a tube of first aid cream. This type of looking out for each other happened the entire time we were there.

Was this for real? The sense of community was almost too unbelievable to, well, believe.

It got me thinking: Why is it we can watch over each other at the local playground but not in our everyday life? As we walked back to the car, I silently vowed to be more aware of the way I act towards other caretakers. We’ve all been in the grocery store when a caretaker is struggling with their child or in the mall when a child finishes his snack and begins screaming as his caretaker desperately tries to find another goodie to appease him in their bag when we ourselves have a bag of Cheerios we could offer.

Somehow, along the way, our society moved to an individualist one where it’s considered rude to put our noses in another person's business. That day on the playground taught me that when it comes to caretaking, it does take a village. There’s nothing wrong with offering another caretaker a hand because we never know when we are going to need that hand in return…whether it's on or off the playground.

Liz Bland, MSW, LCSW serves at the program manager at the Women’s Emotional Wellness Center (WEWC), located at the Main Line Health Newtown Square. Visit our website for more information on the Women's Emotional Wellness Center and join the WEWC Facebook group for daily updates.