Dear France, your playgrounds called... They want their swings back!
Yes! You read that right. None of the playgrounds (at least that we have seen so far) have swings. We have seen lots of playgrounds over the last few weeks, of many shapes and sizes, and they all share one thing in common:
They have no swings. No baby swings. No big kid swings.
Bringing up Bebe
Many moms know about the book called "Bringing up Bebe". In it, the author Pamela Druckerman talks about French parents letting their kids play on playgrounds without much oversight, as they sit around on benches and have "grown up" conversations. She praises this style as being a great way for raising your children, since it forces the children to learn patience and to solve their own problems.
Admittedly I have never read the book, but have seen snippets of it around Facebook and in other articles. Either way, I decided to pay attention to the French Parenting style around playgrounds.
To be able to observe this properly, we had to find a local playground away from the tourist section. We came across a few as we walked around town, but they were all pretty tiny and just consisted of a slide and maybe one of those springy rides (no sure what to call them). I found the biggest playground when I was out for a run and was actually a bit lost :)
We retraced my steps (more or less) later in the evening, and took the kids there to play while I got busy observing.
This was a large playground which consisted of multiple play areas (not a single swing in sight of course), with an unused parking lot in the middle that kids used to ride their scooters and bicycles.
Observations on a French Playground
1. It's true that French parents don't hover over their kids as they play on the slides, run over the connecting bridges, and climb ladders. I saw kids trip and fall without a mom or dad rushing to their aid, although it is worth mentioning that this specific group included older kids of probably 7 or 8.
2. Having to go to the bathroom while you are playing on the playground does not actually mean visiting a restroom facility or going home. You can just go behind the trees (girl or boy). This is also irrelevant of whether you are going number 1 or number 2.
3. Riding scooters or bikes can start at any age and again supervision is not required. Even if we are talking about a 2 year old.
4. Adults sit in benches in a close-ish proximity of children playing and have their "grown-up" conversations. They only get involved if someone needs help with going to the bathroom OR if someone is hurt AND runs to them crying. I had to emphasize the "AND" in the previous sentence because I saw a little girl fall off her bike and get a bloody scratch on her ankle. Other kids gathered around her and after a while she got up and continued to play.
5. French kids need to solve their own problems. I am not sure whether I liked this or not, but I know there will be plenty of people to argue this with me. I saw one boy trying to take the scooter of a much younger boy. The younger boy kept screaming every time the older boy would grab the scooter. He kept screaming and screaming, without the mom being alarmed or even peaking over to look (It seemed the moms of the two children were friends or family as they were sitting together on a bench and chatting). Finally the older boy walked away, but only to grab a few tree berries on the ground and throw them in the face of the little boy. The little boy kept screaming, and eventually the older boy did give up and found something else to play with. Now does that teach the little boy to stand up to bullies later in life? Or does it just teach him frustration and agitation at the sight of an older kid? I'm conflicted on this one. I will state that when a rude French boy a little older than Kian started pinching and slapping Kian's arm for no reason, we did get involved, while his mom remained oblivious on her phone. Maybe if Kian spoke French we would have let it play out more..
*Note: There are always always always exceptions. Apply this to every number on this list :)
Anyways, after all this observing, I still have no idea why there are no swings on French playgrounds. Is it because it might require a mom or a grown up to get up and push the kids and that takes away from their "grown up" conversations? Or is it because of injuries that result from falling off a swing? I can't imagine that is the reason though because the play sets allow for plenty of falling and getting hurt.
Do you know?