Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Caution: Xtreme Playground

Yesterday Crabtot and I went to a local playground training arena for future athletes.

Witness the slide – is it a slide or, as another mom put it, a luge? The ostensible slide is at an almost 90-degree angle, mimicking the mountain in the background – apparently the steepest ski slope in the nation, a slope so high that snowmobilers trek here to test their skills annually on this icy ramp…indeed, they come from far and wide to see who can snowmobile up to the top without backflipping. (Remember this word "backflipping." I shall return to it later.)

So, the slide: it is also very narrow...perchance to train the mini-winter Olympians of Crabtown to tuck arms in when luging down the pipe? And did I mention high? It is absurdly high. No wonder Crabtot does not wish to slide down it. I won’t either. It is as steep as the Crabtown health insurance deductible. Too dangerous for any adult. Yet it has been designed expressly for kids. Whaa?

But this is Crabtown, a locale busting with skiers, climbers, and triathlonians, so you can be quite sure that as you and Crabtot stand warily at the foot of this Seuss-like landscape of giddy-twisty-high-altitude slides, ramps and assorted gymnastic intimidation, an-uber-triathletically inclined family to the power of 50 squared will pull up beside you on their bikes, parents dressed in full-on Lance Armstrong regalia, and bikes trailing all manner of baby-buggy equipment designed to get the whole gang up and out and exercising in all weather and on all terrain.

Said folks will clamber out of contraptions and encourage children to try and kill themselves expand their physical capabilities. Children may even be prompted to scramble up – yes, up – the luge slide, pushed from the rear end by Mom and caught frontally by Dad’s dangling, wiry arm as he perches above. All of course in the spirit of family fun and kid-confidence-building. Because while Dad may be pulling up tot by her pull-up, and Mom pushing her from behind, nobody is metaphorically pushing or pulling anyone here. We are just going with it – with the spirit of our goofy, crazy, extreme, fearless, adrenaline-junkie two-year-old!

Now, to be fair: I know plenty of sensible moms here who do not prod their tots up luge-slides or onto those scary cantilevered playground platforms that thrust into the air (serving no purpose but to invite tots to jump). Many moms, like me, are nervous about these mini-fairground enviros, and we watch with worry, race forward, jump back, bark cautionary comments, position ourselves strategically and in all ways manifest appropriately freaked out concern at the playground. Fun times!

But there are other parents. Whose voices ring with collective Crabtown Coaching: “You can do it, Carter!” “Good job, Belleville!” Yes, these parents are unfortunately all too present, their fearless spawn encouraging our timid tots to go higher, faster, and AGAIN!

When I first moved here and saw a little tiny thing launching herself off a platform and then flinging herself across the monkey bars like some kind of actual monkey – ice-wind chapping her lips but steely Crabtown resolve in her Nordic-champ eyes – I got nervous. I felt sure she would break her neck as she approached a frozen scaffold. I then figured that I was just unused to the sorts of things that kids could do, since mine was still an infant. But, on chit-chatting with the mom I realized that there was more to it.

“With most kids you have to worry,” the mom told me. “But she's very coordinated." And then she nattered on about the kid's "power and strength" and informed me that with the gymnastic training she was already receiving twice weekly, "she can handle whatever she takes on.” (Mom looking quite grim, hair pulled back into no-nonsense Mommy Coach pony, brow furrowed from years of heavy bike-riding at high altitudes).

Fun times!

Again yesterday, fun was the order of the day as I watched that wee thing almost wipe out of the luge with Mom calling “You can do it!” and Dad shunting her down. And after I expressed amazement that such a childlet (barely two) wasn’t afraid of the slide like my own Crabtot, I got this: “Not our girl. She’s practically doing backflips on skis.”

Practically. Doing. Backflips.

On skis.

Question to the floor: Is the too-high scary playground just a Crabtown phenom or are playgrounds nationwide all this insane? I find it so odd, in a culture obsessed with safety, that I’m seeing such tricky and dangerous playground setups. Then again, I’m pretty sure it’s Crabtown-specific or at least specific to ski towns. Where else else do you spot a mom skiing with her infant strapped on in a Bjorn.

Downhill skiing. Infant facing downslope in a frontal carrier.

But I guess some kids can handle it. Put her in a Bjorn this season and by next she's practically doing backflips on skis!

Crabtown Parks and Rec Services, here's a tip: Maybe you should signpost the various parts of playground according to level of difficulty. You know, Double Black Diamond and all that. **You might need a new symbol for that luge slide in Edward Scissorhands Neighborhood Playground. It's a bit beyond black diamonds, but my husband has come up with a new tag you could use: Beige Helix.


Heather said...


What?! No pictures? said...

Hey Crabmom,

We just packed up our "TEAM" yesterday and headed for the Rockies for some fun adrenalin filled skiing!

We do have our small kids skiing the double black diamonds and I have been heard to yell, "don't be a chicken, just ignore the extreme caution sign, it's a "green" black not a "black" black."

Just at lunch I was telling them how proud I was going to be when they'd be up on the podium with O'Canada playing. Ahhhh!

Back to playgrounds. Yes, they can be rather crazy! BUT, I let my kids go on the stuff they are comfortable with. It's not an Olympic sport, so need to push them beyond the limits, right? I don't like to play at the playground I like to watch! So basically, if you can't get on it, reach it, or you need caught or constant "hands on" supervision - you can't play on it.

I also yell on the playground and it usually sounds like this, "Take it easy, if you break something, you're going to get a spanking!" Who in the heck has time for that!

Crabmommy said...

MK, Have a swell trip. And if you're in our 'hood, put on helmets before hitting the p-grounds. As I said, there are no beige helix warnings yet, but keep an eye out! :)

jocelyn said...


I am a big skier and I have a four month old. I would love to ski with her on me but I'm afraid because her 16lbs would offset my balance so much. How early do these people start their tykes on skis? And what's the best way to go about it. I'm pretty sure if we did stuff like this in California the lawyers would be sueing the ski resorts like crazy when a tot hurt himself.

Jege (Jen) said...

Beige helix. Love it!

Crabmommy said...

To be completely fair, Jocelyn, i haven's seen many moms doing the Bjorn downhill thing, but I have seen it happen -- and it's local Crabtown athletes, that's for sure. You raise a good point about balancre: surely an extra 16 lbs might make a mom-skier wipe on that double-black diamond? And how about that tender baby skin facing into the whistling frigid wind as Mom Christies through the powder? Ridiculous, says the Crabmom. As for regualr skking, poeple start them here as early as 2...they buy these special baby skis and them leash them to mom or dad all morning. Fun!

Karen Stead Baigrie said...

Belleville...that is a goodie....I must remember it for the next time I get pregnant.....

Crabmommy said...

OK, BklynMom, I made up the kid name "Belleville." It has a certain resonance for South Africans of the Cape, and a little bird tells me you are one of them. It also seems after all the Carters, Jacksons, Bennets, and all the other last names happening that we should end up in Bell(e)ville. Maybe all roads lead to Bellville in the end.

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