Monthly Archives: February 2012

Isn’t there a waiver I need to sign?

Now that spring is around the corner playgrounds will once again be buzzing with activity. It’s been over a year since we moved here and it has taken me this long to get used to the playgrounds. You’ll know what I mean if you visited one.  To a kid… it’s the “most awesome” playground ever.  To a North American mother… it’s an accident waiting to happen.  I come from a land of caution.  Where things are padded, protective gear is worn and waivers are signed.  Playgrounds are pleasure habitats where kids can be kids and parents can take a break from daily chores to hangout.  Kids can yell , scream and play tag, while parents socialize and update their Facebook status.  Back in my day I don’t remember parents hovering around supervising and I could probably show you plenty of scars from my childhood thanks to the cushioning of a pavement surface.  Times have changed and playgrounds have evolved.

North America vs Austria… there are differences.  I’ll get to safety later but first point out the most obvious difference.  What to bring.

  • Snacks.  Check.
  • Juice.  Check.
  • Wine… wait…check?

You can drink alcohol in public places here in Austria so technically I could bring a bottle of wine to share with the other mom’s (I know, how great is that?). If this were legal in Canada I can visualize special “lemonade stands” set up  next to playgrounds all across the country.

Child: “Daddy look what I found!  A worm :)”

Parent: “Hey what do ya know, me too!” <chewing and swallowing with a shutter> Hiccup.

Still haven’t found any mom’s who feels that drinking a glass of wine while watching the kids play is totally ok.  I know they’re out there… somewhere.

Ok down to safety.  Austrians still build playgrounds using natural elements (which I think is fantastic).  Soft ground is provided however, the added safety rails are nowhere to be seen.  As a worried mother of two I do understand the “North American attitude” with regards to safety however, as (once upon a time) a child I get how cool it is to test out your balance and coordination on equipment like this.

I’ve only had one “hold my breath” incidence when my son lost his balance at the top of a rope pyramid.  Thankfully,  due to the multiple cross ropes on the apparatus he ricocheted all the way down before smashing head first into the ground. There’s one thing for sure.  Kids do learn quickly.  He brushed himself off and climbed back up.  Perhaps I worried for nothing?

So for now I join the other European parents & caregivers and urge my kids to explore, challenge and most of all have fun with the equipment they are given.  Secretly I still cringe and pray that they don’t come crashing down on their head….again.


“OK Kids, what shall we read about tonight? Drowning? Starving? Or Burning to Death?

“Mommy, mommy read me a bedtime story please?”  Every child loves bedtime stories right?  What better way to ease into a good nights rest and have sweet dreams than to read a good ‘ol fashion bedtime story.   Well  I’m not so sure that these “Austrian classics” will do just that.  While my husband and I were shopping for new books I came across this one.   “Der Struwwelpter”(Shaggy Peter). The cover looked interesting to me so I investigated only to become horrified at the illustrations it contained.  “Oh that’s a classic storybook.  Every child in Austria grows up with this book” my husband said.  “Let’s buy it”.  Now I’m always up for new adventures, so I considered and thought hey why not scare the kids into behaving properly?  My husband turned out fine and he seems to have no long-lasting psychological issues from his childhood (at least I think so)… let’s give it a go.

The book which became popular after its third edition was published in 1858.  It has 10 life lesson stories which covers topics such as drowning, bullying & teasing other children, consequences of not listening to parents and being blown away forever in a wind storm.  Personally, I find the book so shocking (in the eyes of young children) that it’s comical. I was anxious and curious to see the kids reaction to the book.  The verdict?  A total success.  Kids enjoyed the stories and found the illustrations as funny as I did. Perhaps my giggles while reading along with them had something to do with it.

Here are a few of my kids favourites:

“Die gar traurige Geschichte mit dem Feuerzeug” (The Dreadful Story of the Matches), a girl plays with matches and burns to death.

In “Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher” (The Story of the Thumb-Sucker), a mother warns her son not to suck his thumbs. However, when she goes out of the house he resumes his thumb-sucking, until a roving tailor appears and cuts off his thumbs with giant scissors.

“Die Geschichte vom Suppen-Kaspar” (The Story of the Soup-Kaspar) begins as Kaspar, a healthy, strong boy, proclaims that he will no longer eat his soup. Over the next five days he wastes away and dies.

So there you have it parents.  Scare tactic could work for you or could be just “another bedtime” story .

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