East Lynn Park, Toronto.
‘Mommy, someone is is the red swing.’
‘It’s ok sweetheart. We can wait our turn.’
I roll Sebastian over in the double chariot and stop next to the swing and Tallula scrambles off to the bouncy horse nearby. A woman who had put her toddler in next to her baby (in the baby swing adjacent) says ‘times up’ to her kiddos and they move off to play elsewhere too. The special swing is free.
At the park the only thing Sebastian can really do independently is swing in one of these swings. And he loves it. Tallula knows that these swings are for her brother and kids like him. When she sees someone who doesn’t fit, she lets me know. Someday she will let them know too.
Usually it’s not an issue once we roll up. Parents ‘finish’ their kids’ turn and move on. Recently one mom explained to her kids why they were moving on and then we shared some small talk about the beginning of summer and the funny weather. It was awesome. It was also the only time a parent has explained what these special swings are for and who should use them.
Back to today. After Sebastian was done swinging and ready for a snack, I started walking him to the chariot facing the swings. Tallula wanted underdog after underdog and wasn’t planning on getting out any time soon.
Behind me I heard a group of raucous boys. Probably around ages 10-12. There were about 6 of them that immediately swarmed the swing behind us as I helped Sebastian over to the chariot. I looked back and asked them to wait a minute so I could continue helping Sebastian walk. They hung back long enough for us to leave the space. The largest boy climbed in and the started pushing him as high as possible. I watched them a bit while going between pushing Tallula and feeding Sebastian. He thought they were funny. And it was ok. For a little while.
Soon one boy climbed on the side of the swing while the one was still swinging. The large swing moved towards Tallula. That’s when I stepped in. Essentially I told them it’s ok to use the swing when someone, like my son – who can’t sit on his own- doesn’t want to use the swing. But I also told them they need to respect it, much like they would expect someone who borrows their bike to take care of it. Because if they break the swing, kids that can’t sit up in their own won’t have a swing to use at all. I also let them know it was not ok to be so wreckless with my young daughter sitting next to them. She had been watching them and trying to process this whole time what they were doing. Know it wasn’t ok.
For the most part, the kids calmed down. One boy in particular wanted to argue with me; he was the boy I said thank you to when we were leaving. I know all of those boys didn’t hear me today, but I do know that he did.
Parents, talk to your kids about the different swings on the playground. (Don’t swing in it while you wait for your child to be done playing, as Tallula also pointed out at another nearby park the other week). Teachers, you can talk about them too. Sadly, our city continues to segregate kids with disabilities from regular classrooms and even schools. These kids don’t know anyone with a disability. They might not even know what the word means. Or that kids with disabilities like to swing as high as the sky and touch their feet to the trees too. But they need a special swing to do it.