The jungle gym is my least favorite invention, followed closely by talking toys. In the history of inventions, we have some very practical ones, such as cars and airplanes. Even some more modern ones, like the Total Gym and the Bacon Crisper, have earned their place in history. But I would like to have some words with the person who thought it would be a good idea to build a metal contraption from which kids could climb, dangle, and fall.
Every playground has some form of a jungle gym. From a geometric dome to a set of monkey bars, they are all essentially the same masses of hot and rusty metal, designed to give mothers heart failure.
Dear Jungle Gym Designers,
Do we really need to encourage our children to act like monkeys? Because frankly, I don’t think they need any more help in that area. And how did you score a contract with every playground in the universe? Since you obviously have some connections, I would like to submit my proposal now for the playground in Paradise. Could you at least pad the bars? And maybe add a cushion at the bottom, approximately three feet thick. Sand is just not breaking the fall. Sincerely, Mom
The beach near our house has a playground with…surprise!…a jungle gym. The other day I told my kids not to go on it. I made up some excuse about how the metal would be too hot in the sun, but I really did not feel like wasting a perfect beach day in the emergency room. But all children are fluent in the language of Whinese, so I caved like a cheap playpen. As I packed up our things for a quick getaway, I wondered why kids feel compelled to do things that lead to disaster. Within minutes, I heard screaming. At first I thought it was just the voice inside my head, but then I turned to see my five-year-old dangling by his foot from the top of the jungle gym. His shoe was caught, and if I had not been there to rescue him, it could have led to a catastrophe.
The jungle gym works something like a giant magnet for children, as they seem drawn to it the moment they set foot on the playground. Apparently kids can see some invisible sign, which reads: COME CLIMB ON ME AND DRIVE YOUR MOTHER CRAZY. Meanwhile, the sign for mothers reads: I HOPE YOU BROUGHT YOUR INSURANCE CARD.
The jungle gym calls out folly to children and wisdom to adults. Adults know enough to fear injury from this metallic monster, but that’s not to say we aren’t without our foolish moments. In the same way kids do things that are obviously going to lead to disaster, adults also make questionable choices that cause pain.
The book of Proverbs personifies Wisdom and Folly as two women who cry out to passersby to listen. Since they both sound like an overbearing mother, no wonder people have trouble paying attention. For years people have been tuning out their mothers, as my walls can testify from all of the times I have been apparently talking only to them.
Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way…beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.”
Not to be outdone, Folly joins in the shouting match.
The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by…”Let all who are simple come in here!” she says to those who lack judgment.
Folly entices us to do things we will later regret, and wisdom encourages us to do the right thing. You would think we would learn from childhood, but adults still do foolish things just because it seems fun. Maybe it’s not as obvious as a giant metal jungle gym, but not until we are dangling precariously over the sandpit do we realize that next time, maybe we should just stick to the swings.