Something I wrote for The Age on the playgrounds closing in Melbourne.
Hoping no one trolls me 🙂
No doubt a barrage of expletives was unleashed in WhatsApp parenting groups when Daniel Andrews announced that playgrounds were closing.
As a mother of two children under 5, I was moved to the f word by the news. With no front yard, back yard or balcony, playgrounds are where my kids go crazy so they can be sane indoors. I definitely don’t like playgrounds being closed.
But I do think it’s necessary.
This is mainly because children don’t social distance. They hug, poke each other, pull each other’s eyelids and lick each other’s noses. Children were made to spread germs. Mine have recently brought home from childcare conjunctivitis, hand, foot and mouth disease, croup and other illnesses that don’t even have a name (what do you call it when your tongue is sore for six weeks?). Luckily, those diseases are mild.
As for practising coughing and sneezing etiquette in a playground, maybe the most advanced of three-year-olds could make a decent attempt. But a chubby little hand with the fingers spread wide open over a coughing mouth is not a barrier. And as for the younger ones, you can’t ask them to sneeze into an elbow when they don’t know what an elbow is because their understanding of anatomy comes from the lyrics of ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’.
With extracurricular sports and birthday parties cancelled, playgrounds have become even more attractive. Consequently, they’re packed with families, many of whom know one another because a 5km travel limit means everyone has to go local. Two hours of ‘exercise’ suddenly turns into a series of accidental catch-ups. It’s only natural, we’re social creatures and children are creatures whose sociability is very hard to restrain. Try breaking it to an adorable 3-year-old that they can’t play with your child because of coronavirus – I definitely couldn’t.
At least children are wired to find fun. Close the playgrounds and they’ll adapt: an upturned washing basket becomes a turtle shell costume, a bed is a trampoline and a prostrate sibling is something to be hurdled. Let’s not forget about the old-school games like hopscotch and a ball. They’ve endured because they’re fun.
So, I’m dusting off the frisbee and girding my hamstrings for a few weeks of cartwheeling. While I know my kids would love to form a disorderly queue with friends and strangers and whizz down a slide, at the moment closing playgrounds is the safer option for everyone.
But make no mistake: when we do get the green light from Daniel, we’ll be there at the crack of dawn, bursting through the barrier tape like Olympic sprinters and ready to pull some eyelids.