I haven't been to the playground with my son, Silas, in a long time. Mostly this has been due to two reasons, the first being that it's been cold. I'm not a particularly active parent at the playground. If Silas complains about being cold, I tell him to run around some more, but I am not one of those parents who chases my shrieking child up and down the slides, let alone across the monkey bars.
I'm not actually sure if I could swing across the monkey bars if my life depended on it. Fortunately, I have yet to run across a situation where my life hung in the balance of whether I could swing across cold, metal bars.
Basically, I bring a book (nothing too trashy, because I know I'll be reading in front of other parents), sit on a bench and tell Silas to have a good time. This works well for me in the warmer months, but not so much in the winter.
The other reason we haven't been to the playground in a long time is that Silas hasn't asked me to go. Silas is 8 and is more interested in building dioramas of Star Wars scenes out of Legos and building rock forts at Emigrant Lake. Even when I tell him there's a brand new playground at Garfield Park, and new things to play on at the Lithia Park playground, he just stares at me and asks, for the 10,000th time, if we can go to his grandma and grandpa's house (the majority of his Legos are there).
When I was a kid I remember that my sister and I would go the playground all the time. We played tag, pretended we were zookeepers at an imaginary zoo, did tricks on the swings and begged our dad to push us faster and faster on the merry-go-round. I also remember that my mom wouldn't push us on the merry-go-round; she always said that it made her feel sick. When I was 8 I thought that sounded totally crazy. I understood people being car sick (my sister once famously threw up in my brother's hat on the short car ride out to Emigrant Lake), and I could deduce from that that some people would feel sick on the merry-go-round. In fact, I often felt sick while on the merry-go-round, wasn't that part of the fun? The part I couldn't understand was how someone could possibly feel sick just watching it spinning round and round.
Now, as an adult, I totally understand. I can no longer read in the car without feeling queasy (although I have yet to throw up in a hat). Pushing Silas on the merry-go-round makes me feel like I have to go lie down somewhere until the vertigo passes. I even feel the beginnings of motion sickness when I'm on the swings.
I haven't inspected the new playgrounds up close, but I'm worried they are full of things that will not only make me feel sick, but will force me to read my books with my back to the equipment. I can't be on something that spins in circles, nor do I feel like watching it.
I don't know what changes happen between being 8 and being 28. Either there is a profound change in my brain, specifically the nausea centers, or my idea of fun has changed dramatically.
I recently woke up during the night feeling dizzy and sick, the room spinning around me. It wasn't fun, I didn't enjoy it, and I had to call in sick to work.
As kids, my sister and I would spin and spin and spin in the field behind our house until we were so dizzy we'd fall down. Then we'd lie on the grass and watch the sky and trees spin around us as our brains tried to readjust. Sometime in the last 20 years, being dizzy went from something to do for fun to something that is a symptom of illness.
Zoe Abel is off to the park with her son to check out the new equipment, she just won't do it too close to a meal. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.