I took my kids to a tiny neighborhood park today. It is off the beaten path, slightly obscure. My husband and I took our son there once when he was a toddler years ago. The play structure was too high for him. We freaked out and went home. That quick exit may be why I never noticed something that is rarely seen on a playground these days: a seesaw.
While I helped my kids to understand the mechanics of this new device, I realized that it might be one of the best pieces of equipment that isn’t typically installed on playgrounds anymore. Maybe it has gone away from schoolyards because it excludes all but two children. Though, worry of liability and safety are most likely the culprits of its forced extinction.
I was saddened for today’s kids a bit when I remembered the sheer joy this lever with two seats and handles provided for my best friend and me in our playground days. I began to see the lessons that could be learned from its simple “up and down.”
The seesaw itself is a lesson in building a trusting relationship. It is the one thing on the playground you can’t do alone. You and your friend must work together. You have to find the balance of your push and your weight. If you don’t “push” your own weight, you don’t go anywhere. If you don’t pay attention to the weight of your friend you could come down too quickly, ding your heels. If you quit working altogether, and let your seat hit the ground, your friend gets an unpleasant bump as well. It only works when each finds the rhythm of the other.
This is an essential life lesson. Find the balance of give and take in every relationship. Be aware of the needs of the other person and they will be aware of your needs. Failing to do this ends in a hard bump for both sides.
Face to face conversations are slowly going extinct these days. The seesaw is one place on the playground where this could happen with little distraction. Once the rhythm is there, nothing is stopping the conversation from flowing. My best friend and I coveted the chance to be the first pair to the seesaw. It meant we had time to ourselves to talk about whatever we wanted. It is a joy our fast paced world is slowly killing.
Truly focused one-on-one chats with a friend build people up and make them feel worthwhile. In this world of having to include everyone, our kids are missing out on this gift of building close friendships.
Today, my kids found their balance with each other. My son didn’t mind working a little harder so that his little sister could have the same fun he was having. It only took a couple hard bounces for them to figure out that the bumps weren’t worth it. They worked together to get Mommy in on the fun. It was gratifying for them to find that they could raise me up in the air if we all sat in just the right place. We had to find the compromise between our push and our weight. We talked to each other without a care in the world for anything else. This relic of playground history reconnected us by putting us face to face and encouraging us to find our balance in each other.