Too Big For The Play Area
The Tween Conundrum
A few years ago, I was at the park with my boys awaiting their turn for the swings. There were two boys and one girl probably around the ages of 9–11. They were smiling at each other as they thrusted themselves higher. We patiently waited, but after a while I could feel myself get a little agitated. The older kids were taking too long to get off the swings.
I made eye contact with some of the parents that were waiting just like me and my boys. I know what they were thinking, Can you please tell them that their time is up? I’m black, those older kids on the swings were black. Maybe they thought they were with me. Maybe they thought if I told them to get off the swings it wouldn’t escalate to something uncomfortable. I chuckled to myself, but I understood. How could I tell these kids that were obviously having a good time to get off the swings? I didn’t. I just watched and waited. My boys were over it, but I told them to wait just a little longer because we were next. Those older kids were having fun. Their smiles were huge, their laughter was joyous and loud. Those bigger kids were tweens.
Tweens are described as: Preadolescence, also commonly known as pre-teen, is a stage of human development following early childhood and preceding adolescence. It commonly ends with the beginning of puberty, but may also be defined as ending with the start of the teenage years. For example, the age range is commonly designated as 9–12 years.
“MOM I WANT TO GET ON THE SWINGS”! My son yelled. A few seconds later the tweens jumped off the swings searching for the next thrill. As I pushed my boys on the swings, I observed one of the tweens. He eyed the slide. He smiled then jolted towards it. Going up the steps was unthinkable. He began to climb up the slide as a younger kid was on his way down. The younger kid gave the bigger kid a death stare. The tween quickly removed himself from the slide.
We want our kids to be kids. We want them to be carefree. We want them to play and get exercise, but when they’re tweens it’s kind of like you’re too big to be on the playground equipment.
Perhaps recognizing that tweens frequent the playground equipment, my local park built an area specifically for the infants — Pre-K. Separating age groups may work sometimes, but parks are public. People can go wherever they want to. Usually there is common courtesy you see a kid waiting their turn, you enjoy yourself a bit longer then you move on. Tweens are still kids and in many cases they are not ready to move on, but unfortunately they’re forced to.
Many times tweens don’t realize how big they are until a 5-year-old runs into them. I’ve witnessed those moments. They’ll stand frozen. They’ll watch the younger kids chase one another, then they will look around and notice that they are the biggest kid in the area. Bewildered and a bit saddened they’ll leave the play area.
I’ve also witnessed some uncomfortable park incidents. There are some older kids that are disrespectful. You’ll hear them using inappropriate language as they hang from the monkey bars. Some will play their not safe for the playground music too loud. I’ve witnessed parents scolding the older kids telling them to leave the area or they’ll call the cops. The park can get a bit unruly. Where are the older kids that are still kids supposed to go?
My boys are now in the tween category. When we go to the park they have no interest on getting on the playground equipment. Let me tell you, that hurt my feelings! They were growing up a little too fast, but I had to be honest with myself, my boys were changing! Their go to park activity is that dang on football. They attempt to tackle, but I warn them to keep it light. Sometimes the football lands in the hands of some 3-year-old that wants to play catch with them. My boys are so irritated when this happens. They’re in a groove, and here comes some snotty nosed, butterfingered child that can’t throw or catch who wants to join in on their fun. The look on my boys faces says it all. Why can’t they stay in their area?
How do you deal with older kids at the park? Do you think parks should separate the younger and older kids?