There are swings, a slide, see-saws, a lop-sided spinner, a playhouse, a sandpit and a rope climbing frame. All covered by a rainbow coloured sun shade which looks like a circus tent that’s been slashed. And bark chips for bedding. A child’s oasis in an adult’s grassy park.
The sun is clear bright yellow. The sky blue with no clouds. A breeze blows. A beautiful day even for an adult to play!
There are only two people in the playground. Myself and her. And she won’t look at me. I hope it stays that way. I’m not even interested in looking at her. I’m standing there hands in pockets, a part time father. She stands too, her body turned away from me.
Her attention is fixed on the child allocated to her. And I hope her stare stays that way. For my eyes are fixed on my daughter at play. Every so often I furtively steal glances at them both. I don’t want either to move from their place. She in the playhouse. He in the sandpit.
I want to ensure the circle of safety around my child at play stays that way. But she has other ideas. As does the other child.
I watch carefully as the intruder appears. He approaches slowly. He plays by himself. But each time he gets closer to her. I’m torn. I’m wishing the children would play together. I’m afraid she’ll get hurt. I’m waiting for the slightest movement. Then like a wraith, I’ll run in and snatch her away from harm. The worst is having anything happen to her. Even worse is informing her mother who will accept no explanation. It’s all fear at the moment.
But then the two children starting circling each other. They eye each other carefully. I wait to see who will strike the first blow. I’m feel I’m witness to the beginnings of a conflict. The tension increases. I’m coiled ready to pounce. I squint and watch carefully too. I start composing an explanation for the other (absent) parent.
I look across the playground. The other (present) parent doesn’t seem to be bothered. She doesn’t seem to worry what her son is about to do. Although she is watching.
Who started it I cannot tell. Perhaps it was my (borrowed) child or hers. Perhaps both at once? They soften their gaze at the same time. They ask and answer the unspoken question. “Do you want to play?”
Then she looks across the playground at me. She visibly relaxes. We both smile the same wish at the same time.
Wouldn’t it be a better place if all the world was this way?