I’ve talked a lot about how much I appreciate the playgrounds here. They’re less safe, undoubtedly, than those back home, but the ones here provide much more opportunity for my kids to challenge themselves physically and mentally, to accomplish things they didn’t think that they could, and to sometimes make the choice to back down from a challenge that is too great for them. Sometimes the ladders are too high, the ropes too wobbly, the slides too steep. I like seeing them make their own choices about what is a reasonable amount of risk to take on. (After all, aren’t we faced with choices like that our whole lives?)
I forget sometimes that however challenging and extreme our neighborhood playgrounds seem by my American standards, they are nothing in the overall scheme of Austrian playgrounds. Two weekends ago, Liam wanted to visit a playground that we’ve been to before, out in the western outskirts of Vienna (at Am Himmel). Since we’d last been in the fall, they’ve updated a lot of the equipment, making this one of the most challenging playgrounds the kids have ever been to. Liam remembered it for the “giant slide” — a 10-12′ tall slide (with no railings) that gives me butterflies every time either of my kids climbs it. After the update, that is now seriously one of the tamer elements.
My kids had a blast, and I survived (just barely … just kidding). I think these places to play are fantastic. Yes, I bet kids get hurt here all the time. I imagine that teeth get chipped, arms get broken. And I know if something like that happened to one of my kids, I’d be likely to beat myself up over having allowed them to take those risks. But it is truly amazing to watch them in this environment, pushing their limits, accomplishing difficult things, working out solutions, and sometimes deciding that a challenge is too ambitious. In this moment, I do believe it’s wort the risk … and it’s also an absolute ton of fun, for all of us.