A Friend is a Playground

A goose makes a great slide. Emmeline is way better than a swingset. Who needs sidewalk chalk when you’ve got mud to draw with? Why blow bubbles when you can pee behind a tree?


Boo and Emmeline in a hundred see-saw-free acres.

Last week at the park with Keilani, she and Boobaby made up an elaborate game involving delivering squirrel burgers for the squirrels to eat.

Just yesterday at the duck pond, Emmeline, our D.C. friend Emma, and Boo were entertained endlessly by dunking each other’s heads in the murky water, fishing for maneating carp with their fingers, and painting the rocks with goose poop. What could be better?

I’m in an adventuresome mood these days: playgrounds seem passé, kids’ museums too forced. My enormous oeuvre of “weirdparentsattheplayground” posts might imply that I’m a playground addict (and amateur anthropologist), but our best days lately have been out with a friend or two; the best destinations are just a buttload of empty space and dirt.

Hee, hee, I said buttload.

And, of course, friends are a requirement, either to take along or to make when you get there: whenever Boo has a friend along anywhere, swings, slides, sandboxes are superfluous. A friend is a playground.

Playground-free adventures have just two drawbacks: getting there and getting home. We’re blessed in San Francisco with open space access, from Golden Gate Park to the beach. But Working Mom, you’ll remember, is getting into month six of the little-sister production line and our bus line is a twisty nausea-inducer — so she’s taking the car a lot.

Our adventures, therefore, must usually be on public transit, which of course adds to the adventure but also takes away the safety valve. Imagine:

  • You’re a 45-minute, two-transfer ride from home when the tantrum from hell hits. San Francisco bus drivers have the authority to require toddlers to wear muzzles — we want to avoid provoking them.
  • Or a potty accident is followed by a duck pond accident, leaving Boobaby’s only viable clothes option to wear my fleece sweatshirt as a dress.
  • Or I forget to bring Boo’s dolly’s milk bottle.

Catastrophes, all, and I, of course, am a complete putz and avoider of awkward situations.

So, more often than not, when we’re carless, we go to our neighborhood playground anyway. And we swing on a swingset, and draw with normal old sidewalk chalk.

But — keeping it real — when nature calls on our walk down to the playground, we do retain the barest sliver of our sense of adventure: carefully, Boo selects a nice tree to pee behind.