The Playground is Our Community Plaza

Our playground provides a much-needed third place seperate from the commercialized expectations of parenthood.
Amelia Protiva
2 min read

Finding space to simply exist, without the pressure of spending (like in a downtown market or cafe), can feel like a quest for a mythical unicorn today. In becoming a parent, I had no idea that within a few short years, the playground would emerge as the ‘third place’ I yearned for prior to having our daughter.

In the early days of parenthood, we were driven to the park by her love of being pushed in the infant swings. We couldn’t resist the dimples and giggles like any set of proud first-time parents. Yet, as time marched on, the playground evolved into a central hub in our parenting story.

Even the path to the park, once traversed pushing a stroller and carrying a loaded diaper bag full of applesauce pouches and goldfish crackers, is now conquered by our independent 4-year-old on her pedal bike, carrying her own selection of snacks in her little backpack. These transformations signal the passing of time, a testament to our daughter's growth and our evolution as parents.

At the playground, there’s serendipity and a bit of magic.

I can bump into an acquaintance and have a lively conversation or simply sit under a tree on a picnic blanket and read while our children run feral and expend their pent-up energy.

More than swings, slides, and monkey bars, the playground is a world unto itself. It’s one of the few spaces in our culture where our children have the freedom to embark on their own adventures and learn the art of sharing and living in community. A space to exist without the typical pressures to keep pulsing childhood noise and movement constrained for the comfort of others.

As parents, the playground is our community plaza with the safety net of a public space where you can step away or arrive at any moment with little to no fanfare. Moms share cold, hard benches, giggling at our offspring’s antics, sometimes with a knowing look, a little nod, and a warm smile.

Other times, we engage in fragmented yet lively conversations of mutual solidarity. Together, we observe our children grow over the weeks and months, bearing witness to the highs and lows of this mutual quest we’re on to raise kind humans.

Our playground provides a much-needed escape from the commercialized expectations of parenthood. It reminds me that the most profound moments in life often don't carry a price tag. They’re found in these spaces where we exist together, connect in our shared humanity, and most importantly, just be.

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