Swing States

Our latest source of marital friction stems from my wife’s desire for a swing set.

Rather, it started out as a swing set, then morphed into a jungle gym. Now the plans include a sand pit, cargo net, monkey bars, catwalk, turrets, and slide. Basically, my wife wants to turn our back yard into a jihadi training camp.

I just want to hang a tire swing from a stout tree branch and call it a day. Does that make me the most un-fun dad since Captain Von Trapp? Possibly.

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The wife and I are ideological opposites when it comes to our toddler son’s needs. I grew up believing toys were only given on special occasions – birthdays, Christmas, the removal of one’s braces or appendix.

Sure there were other opportunities for presents. Maybe when dad returned from a business trip, he’d make a big production out of a hastily purchased airport gift, like a snow globe. Or a beer stein.

Then there’s my wife, who will buy our son anything on the flimsiest pretext. ¿Son eats a crayon? His artistic impulse warrants an art set and easel. ¿Son empties kitchen drawer of dish towels and pot holders? Clearly, she insists, he needs a play kitchen.

The swing set issue is tough because I am opposed on both aesthetic and philosophical grounds. Aren’t jungle gyms an eyesore? And don’t kids lose interest after awhile anyway?

Granted my friends say that aesthetically, I’m fairly anal. (I prefer “fastidious.”) It’s true that I neaten up our home before and after the cleaning lady comes.

Philosophically, I’m taking sort of a Rocky IV, back-to-basics approach. Instead of a state-of-the-art gym facility, I want my son climbing trees, fording streams and generally improvising his own obstacles.

My wife says to stop inferring parenting techniques from pop culture films. I say, Hakuna matada. But she may have a point. Perhaps I need to solicit guidance from parents who’ve “been there.” (Um, that’s your cue, internet.)

So lay it on me. Do kids quickly lose interest in their backyard swing sets? Or do they frolic and cavort like otters, perpetually testing the limits of imagination and play?

Should we try and have the best of both worlds, and give a jungle gym as an elaborate gift to our neighbors?… even though their kids are in college? And if we go the tire swing route, is it ever possible to get rid of the rainwater that sloshes around the bottom? I hate that.

As always with our disagreements, we need to achieve balance. Of course, my wife would respond that if it’s balance I’m after, we should really throw in a see-saw.

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