Posted by: Genny Colby | September 4, 2010

Personal Responsibilty

The monkey and I waved goodbye to Daddy and Pop-pop as they left for their grand week of camping in Montana, then hit the neighborhood playground before it got to be a scorcher of day.  The playground is not huge, but it is the right size for my little monkey to climb, run, slide, and swing to her hearts content.

I was disappointed to find trash all over the playground, even though there are 2 garbage cans in the area.  Water bottles, bottle tops, chip bags, an empty cigarette box, etc.  At least there were no beer bottles.  Both benches had been taken off the concrete and moved around.  Not sure how this was accomplished as they had been screwed into place on the concrete to prevent movement in high winds and I would suspect to prevent from theft as well.  But I guess if a group is determined enough.  I remember we used to always move the picnic tables to the sandbox to run across the top and jump into the sandbox off of, usually right after the new load of sand was delivered.

I get it…there are not many places for a young person to hang out, especially if you can’t drive.  Our little neighborhood is not really in walking distance to many places I suspect teens are all that interested in, other than some very nice trails for walking.  And since we know that hanging out a home is just not cool…why not hang out at the playground, when all the little kids have gone home for bed.  That does not bother me at all, they need some place to hang out, talk, practice flirting, and in general, just keep being kids.

I have many memories of summer nights spent sitting on top of the monkey bars with my best friend enjoying our cokes and chocolate bars.  Many evenings involved biking to Super America (a nearby gas station/convenience store) and spending our baby sitting/allowance money on sodas and candy bars. I remember Whatamacallit bars were often the chocolate of choice.  Occassionally I will see those at the store and smile as I remember those summer evenings with my best friend.

Then we would bike around the neighborhood, deciding where to stop and enjoy our dessert and talk about all those things young pre-teen and pre-driving teens talk about.  Most evenings we found ourselves at one park or another (though we did try to avoid the one right across the street from our houses, in case our mothers decided to “spy” on us.  Not sure why we thought they would be so interested in our conversations or how they could have heard us from half a block away, but hey, we were young!)

But in all those years, never once would it have occurred to us to leave our trash on the ground.  We always either found a trash can near by, or took it home with us.  And it never would have even crossed our minds to deface the equipment with writing of any kind, least of all words that could be considered unsuitable for young kids.  And if the park did happen to have younger kids playing, we would either select another park, or make sure we were not where they wanted to play.

It occurred to me as I spent time picking up the trash, what kind of parenting leads kids/teenagers/young adults, to believe that treating a public place is acceptable.  Or anyplace for that matter. Why should you care about how the park looks?  Your message on the equipment is much more vital than leaving for the next person to enjoy.  The trash you made from your dessert, why not leave on the ground?  Why should you take care of it…someone else will.  And if some little one wants to play there, well you were there first and they can just go somewhere else.

It seems that today parents are less concerned about teaching their children to take responsibility for their choices, their actions, and not being respectful of those around you and there are no consequences.  Parents today seem so afraid of their children not liking them that instead of being parents, they are trying to be their friends.  So many kids today believe that they are in control of their own lives and that of their families.  Who are the adults? Where are the lessons we as parents are supposed to be teaching our children?

Do I want to be my daughter’s friend?  Yes, in time.  But right now she needs a parent.  Someone to teach her to be responsible for her actions, to set boundaries for what is acceptable and not acceptable behaviors and to follow through with natural and logical consequences when she tests those boundaries.  I also see it as my job to expand those boundaries as she grows up, give her opportunities to succeed on her own and learn to ask for help when necessary.

So, I will continue to pick up the playground as I find trash, knowing at least that these kids have somewhere to go and hang out that, at least from the evidence, is still pretty innocent.  I will teach my daughter as she grows up that it is not okay to leave our mess for someone else to clean up.  I will hope she one day has a best friend to share summer evenings with cokes and candy bars.  And knows to throw away her trash and leave the playground better for the next group of young kids or teens.



  1. Love this post! It was a good reminder for me that sometimes as a parent your child will not like the boundaries you set but you still need to follow through (as hard as it is).

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