13 June 2008

On Pirate Parks

There are a lot of playgrounds in Amsterdam. I mean, practically every block has one. This particular park we call Pirate Park. Partly because Addison is pirate crazy, and partly because it's a huge pirate-ey boat with a sign that reads "Spelen op eigen risk". Play at your own risk.

The Netherlands, and I believe Europe in general, is very much a play at your own risk type of place. When we first arrived, Hyland and I both noted a flat we used to ride by on the tram that had this gigantic window, usually totally open, with about a 30-foot drop to the pavement outside. Inside, the family carried on their regular lives, unaware that death awaited their toddler at the hands of that window.

Now I realize that they have made it clear to the toddler that he/she may die if he/she goes too close to the window, the child has agreed to not fall or jump out the window, and they move forward without making too much of a fuss about it.

Here, you will find railings with huge, baby sized gaps in them; super tight, 3inch deep spiral stairs that only the most fit adults could manage through; and boats crammed to the brim with drunk people floating down the canals and booming techno music. I have never seen a single person actually in the canal, or falling off of one of these floating ragers. Amazing.

Coming from a place where everyone around you must somehow be at fault for your misfortune, this has been an aspect of life here that is both strange and comforting. It is comforting because, well, all this finger pointing has made Americans sissies.

This week, Addison fell off the monkey bars in the gymnasium and they had to call me to come down and check him out. He got a huge shiner from falling right on his head, but was totally fine. He came home for the rest of the morning and went right back to school in the afternoon. I couldn't help but think about what percentage of parents in America might have suggested that the teachers were negligent, or should have somehow prevented this from happening.

I just kept thinking about Pirate Park. Play at your own risk.

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