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The other day, we ventured out. Out along the path, a family of four, getting fresh air and sunshine.

We reached the sport fields. A mass of little kids dressed in blue and white played cricket. Their faces were scrunched in consternation. Their hands were clasped around the bats. All donned a hat, and zinc was smeared on each and every little nose.

Families hugged the sidelines, huddled around eskies and picnic rugs. Parents sat in fold-out chairs.

From one end of the field to the other, all I heard from the sidelines was:

Don’t hit the pine cone with your bat.
Don’t take your hat off.
Don’t go too close to the pitch.
Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

We reached the playground. The younger siblings of the kids in blue and white hurried through the tunnel, up the ladder, down the slide. Three kids raced round and round the equipment.

Mothers hung at the fence, their sunnies propped on scrunched noses.

All I heard from the sidelines was:

Don’t block the slide.
Don’t run so fast.
Don’t dirty your shoes.
Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

I also heard:
Careful on the slide.
Watch the other little girl.
Say goodbye. Briony, say goodbye to the other little girl, do you hear me?

From one end of the sport field to the other, I didn’t hear one positive thing said to a child. Everything was a restriction. A limitation. A boundary. There was no space to manoeuvre. No space for a little child just to be. 

And yet it was a playground. game of cricket.

The little boy put down his cricket bat, dejected. He dropped the pine cone on the ground, and wandered off the field.

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{linking with Jess at Diary of a SAHM for IBOT}