Into the Jungle

January 19, 2010 at 8:44 am 2 comments

Monday is my day off, which is pretty standard for clergy around here. Or rather, Monday is my day off from paid work. It is also the day that my kids are not in day care, and we hang out together.

The last few weeks have been out-of-the-ordinary, what with Christmas, and then a stomach bug working its way through the family, and then spending last Monday sitting in the ER waiting for an official diagnosis of “Ear Infection” and a prescription for antibiotics.

The plan yesterday was only slightly out-of-the-ordinary. We often go to the Y, so recently ear-infection-free Grace would hang out at KidsKare, while Desperate-to-burn-off-energy Ruth and I would, as usual, hit the pool. But then KidsKare was full, and Ruth was entranced by the goings-on at Preschool Drop-in, which happens in the large glass-walled gym right by the entrance. So in we went.

There is something sort of wonderful about PDI. It is pretty much as structured as it sounds. There’s a gym, and a big mattress, and some balls, and some ride-in/on toys, a sign-in sheet, and 2-3 YMCA staffers. It is a bastion of that fast-disappearing staple of childhoods gone by… free play. And it is sort of wonderful watching kids figure out how to play together.

Highlights for me were the kid who pushed Grace in the toy car when she couldn’t make it go herself, and the little boy who solemnly handed me the two ribbons he’d been playing with, saying “I have to go now, so you can play with these”. Also, Ruth built a pretty spectacular tower, despite the clear handicap of having to share communal blocks with a kid who was much more into knocking towers down.

Over and over again, I see at PDI the same thing that I love about McPlayland– fast food play areas. The kids are, in the overwhelming majority, pretty good to each other. I see big kids looking out for littler kids. I see strangers exchange names and suddenly become, for the fleeting time that they are together, bestest friends. I see kids negotiating how they are going to share toys and share space and take turns and find the balance between more active and more quiet play. And I see most of it happening with minimal adult involvement. The PDI staffers seem to be there primarily there to prevent escapes, and make bathroom runs- rather than micromanage toddler relationships. AWESOME. (In fact, when I’m there, the only drama I see is when parents get involved in their kids’ play with other kids. Like the mom who tried to make her daughter apologize to mine for pushing her in the car. Dude?! My kid LOVED that push. She’s crying about the wall that made it all end!)

As much as I love watching my two beautiful girls make their way in the world- a whole gym-width away from my influence- I also love this reminder that, before we learn any differently, people have this large capacity to be pretty decent to one another.

Be excellent to each other, eh.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

This is Not a Resolution In which I do NOT give medical advice on the internet

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jocelyne  |  January 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm


    Around here it’s called “Open Kindergym” I think, and we have been longtime fans. I find it interesting the differences between the two we have attended though, one filled largely with parents who drank coffee and chatted and the other filled with many nannies and caregivers who follow their charges around to play with them.

    Seriously? The reason I take my kids to a place like this is so that I *don’t* have to play with them.

  • 2. Becky  |  January 20, 2010 at 1:37 am

    One time we had our Brownies at the McDonalds play area, and there was a little boy who had climbed up and was too scared to climb down. Our Brownies helped him down. I was so proud of them.

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