Let Adults Hang Out at the Playground (Even if They Don't Have Kids)

Filed under: Opinions

What would you do if you saw a man hanging around the playground and he didn't have any kids there?

Well, soon that question may be moot. Miami Beach is just the latest locality considering legislation that would make 19 playgrounds "children's play areas" -- i.e., strictly off limits to any adult not accompanied by a kid. Laws like that are becoming more and more common, according to nonprofit playground promoting organization, KaBoom. But are they making our playgrounds -- and children -- any safer?

The opposite.

"You should be able to go outside at lunch and sit in a public park and watch the children play," says KaBoom spokeswoman, Alison Risso. That's not just civil, it's safer. The more eyes on the street -- and the swings -- the better.

And yet, listen to this. A grandmother I know, Rochelle, went outside to read in her Manhattan neighborhood. The spot she chose was sentimental. "It was a park that my kids played in when they were little, so I was on a bench." But when she looked up from her book, she saw the parents "glaring" at her. "I got uncomfortable, and I left," Rochelle says. It was only then that she noticed the sign at the entrance: No unaccompanied adults allowed.

She was mortified to realize she disobeyed the rules. I'm mortified to realize these rules exist. Mortified to live in a society that thinks it is wise to always think the worst of every adult. Remember the story from this past spring? California parents noticed a guy lurking in their local park. A mom wrote on the neighborhood list serve, "He does NOT have children and pretends like he does and is there to do pull-ups. He takes pictures of the kids with his phone."

Soon 40 terrified parents were meeting with the police. The local news put the suspect's picture on TV. The police started tracking him and discovered (drum roll, please): He WAS doing pull-ups. And he was using his cell phone's stopwatch to time them.

Not to take dirty pictures of kids.

KaBoom's Risso lives in Silver Spring, Md. There, too, a middle-aged man recently started coming to the playground, solo. One of the moms finally ended up talking to him.

Turns out he's a refugee from the earthquake in Haiti. He's new to the country, and alone. He thought that by coming out to sit in the community, he would become a part of it.

Won't he be surprised to learn that, increasingly, this doesn't make him a neighbor. It makes him a criminal.

Related: 'I See You Have a Family Decal on Your Car. Now I Will Kidnap Your Kids!'

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.