Thursday, July 11, 2013

Playground Math

So J loves going to the playground.

Wait, let me rephrase.

J loves going to ANY playground.

Yeah, he has his favorite playground (fortunately it's the one 1/2 mile from our house that we walk and bike to, so it doesn't cause too many problems), but really, he loves playing at playgrounds. He will spend hours at a playground if allowed to do so. There have, so far, I think been only two times when he has asked to leave a playground -- once when he proceeded to get sick after nearly an hour on the swings, and once when it was well over 90 degrees outside and I foolishly forgot to pack any kind of snack aside from water.

In other words, aside from the occasional dad fails, he wouldn't ever leave if it was up to him.

The problem I have with playgrounds, however, is how far away I should stay from him. How much independence do I give J at the playground. Of course I'm not talking about the swings (which still require me to push him), but for the rest of the playground, what's the right distance? I want to give him his own space and independence while he's there, but at the same time, I want to be an engaged father and not be one of those parents sitting off to the side while their kid is running around and menacing the other kids.

So I think it all comes down to a bit of incredibly complex math which my mother (the retired math teacher and current math tutor) assures me is fun:

The first variable is obviously the number of kids at the playground (we'll call this one K). The more kids there, the closer I have to be to my son. He might be almost 3, but he still lives under what my wife calls the toddler credo (what is mine is mine; what was mine five minutes ago is still mine; what was mine last time I was here is still mine; what I was planning on being mine sometime later is mine forever). While we are, of course, working on sharing, it takes time.

The next variable needs to be the time of day. Or more specifically, how far away nap time is (t for short). Even though he swears that he never gets tired, meltdowns somehow seem to happen closer to 12 than any other time.

Then of course there's the peer pressure factor (variable = PP). If other parents are being very engaged, it encourages me to be engaged too. If they are not, I may hold back a bit. This is not something that I am necessarily proud of, but it's the truth. NOTE -- if other parents are being incredibly disengaged, I will react the opposite way and be even more engaged. That's just me trying to up the peer pressure on them. Don't judge me.

Other variables, briefly, include:

Number of available dump trucks in the sandbox -- DT
Relative height of climbing structure (relative of course to my son) -- H
Velocity of spinning things that may make my son sick (always fluctuating) -- VS
Number of trucks my son is trying to hoard -- HT
Number of trucks my son is trying to take out of the sandbox area and race down the slides -- ST

And there are probably many more...

Of course this all relates to some base distance between myself and my son, which, for argument's sake, is probably somewhere around the sum of his height and the length of my arm. We can call this variable JD.

I really don't know what the equation is, and I'm probably missing some variables, but I guess it is:

((JD - t - PP)/K) + (DT/(HT+ST)) - H - VS.

Even if this IS the right equation (which I kind of doubt), the variables are always changing so quickly, I'm sure to always get it wrong. I think I'll have to keep guessing...

Here's to a fun time on the playgrounds this summer!

J at a playground with me, undoubtedly, either too close or too far away.