Play Like a Kid!

If we adults played like very young children, we would probably never get fat, certainly not obese.
If we approached physical activity like children do – that is, before the lure of technology and the opposite sex kicks in – we would probably never give up moving our bodies.
We would always be in tip-top shape.
We would never get up in the morning and groan about having to hit the gym or the great outdoors. We would just jump into our play clothes and shoes and hit the pavement.
No drama.
It’s all about attitude: children embrace activity – they enjoy playing outside and exploring their surroundings and making new friends.
As a child, I wasn’t especially adept at or fond of organized sports – I was never much of a rule lover – but I did spend a lot of time outside, roaming the neighborhood and finding other kids to play with: the Stanislavs, the Crannys, the Behrens, the Bolands, the Hawkins, among others.
Freestyling kids don’t select their friends because of common interests and intellectual gifts, parental approval, or similar stations in life – proximity is the main forger of neighborhood alliances. One simply went outside and found other kids, who were also looking for playmates, not play dates – what the hell is that, anyway?
Parental intervention was looked upon as a contrivance and even an unwelcome intrusion.
We had to play with our boy (cooties!) cousins or kids of our parents’ friends when they came to visit, but we didn’t have to like it.
With friends, I freestyled: I rode my bike. I went swimming. I walked to my best friend’s house, the park, and to the library. I roamed the neighborhood. I climbed hills, I played kickball in the street and sandlot baseball with whiffle balls and plastic bats. I hopscotched, I skipped, I ran, I jump roped – using either a hemp or rubber band rope (anyone else remember getting all tangled up playing Chinese jump rope?) – I played Croquet (a supposedly sedate game that enjoyed a short middle-class renaissance in the early 1960’s – Does anyone else remember crowing with great glee and evil, “I’m going to SEND you!”?).
Most 1950’s and 1960’s kids moved a lot because they wanted to.
My sisaunt* Colleen nailed it: “When I was kid, I would wake up each day and ask, ‘What will I do today?’”
Each day was a gift, always holding the promise of a new adventure.
Then when we hit hormonal 12 or 13, we lost much of this joie de vivre.

As an adult, I take a daily three-mile walk.
Before anyone pats me on the back, I must fess up: I do not jump out of bed each morning overly excited about the prospect of hitting the street, especially when it’s 15 degrees Fahrenheit and I just want to snuggle under the covers with my hubs.
Nope, no superiority here.
Each day, I must give myself a pep talk, a daily reminder of how good I’ll feel afterward, that moving is one of the best ways to keep my blood moving and my weight in check.
Excuse the pun, my walk is rather pedestrian, a route I have been doing for the last three years or so (with some lazy gaps). It never varies – I swear I can see ruts in the sidewalk made by my shoes.
I’m on my third pair of sneakers, also becoming tread worn.
I could probably do it in my sleep. I have added some odd rituals, such as bounding down the two steps at Maple Village and touching a telephone pole near my house as I turn to repeat my 1.5 miles loop.
Superstitions? Nah. More like OCD.
But as I slip on my clothes and walking shoes, I’m not thinking, “What awesome discovery will I experience today?”
Nope. I’m obsessing about…

(1) The weather (an important consideration for an outside walker)
(2) Laundry
(3) Breakfast
(4) Chores to be done that day
(5) Remembering to take my house key, mobile phone, and water
(6) Ticking off upcoming appointments (at my age, mostly doctors and dentists)
(7) Lunch
(8) Dinner
(9) Items to be added to the grocery list
(10) This book (thinking up ideas for it, but mostly worrying that I’m not taking enough time to write it)

Daily minutia.
The adults I encounter seem strident in their purpose: walking dogs, walking to work, walking for exercise.
No one seems overly joyful.
And then there are the gangly, el buffo runners, their ropy legs pushing past human endurance.
It’s almost painful to watch them scrooching their faces into grim determination – as if they have just been released from The Rack.
If walking were so agonizing, I wouldn’t do it – I would find another way to move my body or at least find a way to monetize my exercise, like snagging a job at an Amazon Fulfillment Center
Is it any wonder that good intentions often fall into the abyss?
Will that happen to mine?

It would be fun to design and build an adult playground – no kids allowed because, you know, perverts.
Besides, I doubt if children would be all that hepped up about interacting and playing with random strange adults. Ewww.
This playground would offer everything that regular playgrounds offer, only bigger and stronger because adults can range from very small to obese.
And shouldn’t we be all inclusive?
Monkey bars, climbing walls, swings, Merry-go-rounds, slides, sandlot whiffle ball fields, balance beams, swimming pools, skateboard parks: you name it, it would be there.
No treadmills, exercise equipment of any kind, stationary bikes – anything not fun and breezy.
Adult park rules:

(1) Leave your adult self outside the park entrance. No obsessing over ridiculous adult concerns. No shop talk. No trolling for sex. No harassment. No groping.
(2) Have fun and play like a kid. Climb. Run. Tumble. Skip. Jump rope. Play tag and Red Rover.
(3) Play nice with others. Share.

So for fun, I Googled “Playgrounds for adults.” This is actually a thing.
The website How Stuff Works offers a wish list for what an adult playground should offer

(1) Hopscotch grids
(2) Climbing walls
(3) Swings
(4) Slides
(5) Walking paths
(6) Outdoor workout equipment
(7) Adult-oriented courses
(8) Ziplines
(9) Multi-generational play areas
(10) Merry-go-rounds

I would question Multi-generational play areas, however. It might be awkward sharing a playground with a mix of unrelated adults and kids.
Family playgrounds are different in that those areas have been designed primarily for children and their accompanying parents or guardians.
So let’s play!

*Colleen is my natural aunt; after my grandparents adopted me, she also became my legal sister. As a child, this confused me.
Hell, it still confuses me.


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