Hey men, stop using kids' playgrounds as your gym

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

It's a wonderful world we live in – you can work out just about anywhere. There are gyms, back yards, decks, lounge rooms, parks…did I say gyms? So why, I wonder, do so many men feel the need to work out in children's playgrounds?

I see it all the time: shirtless guys bogarting children's play equipment so they can fit in their daily chin-up routine while kids sit nervously in the nearby sandpit, afraid to approach the swings near the strange man.

I mean, I get it: there are bars to pull yourself up on, poles to push against, and beams to balance on. It's like one giant free gym for dudes who don't want to pay for a gym – except it's not; it's for kids.

When I took my three children to playground near our house last week there was not one, but two separate men working out on the kids' equipment.

My children were understandably wary when we approached. My seven-year-old daughter clung to my leg, swearing she had no desire to play and only wanted to cuddle. My nine-year-old son stayed close, using only the cubby house that was right next to us, and not going near the bars and swings where the men were heaving and sweating and grunting.

My 15-year-old son mumbled something about wanting to be on his phone which, to be fair, he probably would have done anyway.

But the point is the atmosphere was uncomfortable. My children felt like they weren't free to enjoy the equipment. And these men didn't move an inch to allow for the fact that children had arrived to use the playground equipment for the purpose it was originally designed: play.

So, outrage of all outrages, I had to put down my keep cup full of earl grey that had just reached the right temperature and go and play with my children (which is never my intention when I take my kids to the park). Only having me right there with them made them feel comfortable enough to explore and have some fun.

Even with me, the children avoided the apparatus the men were using. And the men in question made no eye contact, no effort to smile or acknowledge our existence, and certainly no effort to move out of the way – which only added to the feeling of intimidation as they grunted through their no-doubt important sweat-sesh.

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Each of the men was fit and strong and muscular – and could probably crush us with his bare hands if he wanted to. And I guess the point is that I feel like the onus was on them to show that they had no intention of doing that. And perhaps moving out of the way and letting my children play in peace.

Don't get me wrong: this isn't about whether those guys are nice guys or terrible humans my kids need to steer clear of as a safety issue. And it has nothing to do with #NotAllMen or painting men with the same scary brush. It's about children feeling comfortable enough to play at a playground – which is precisely what playgrounds are designed for.

Not 500 metres down the road, there is a park with gym equipment, and as the children and I walked home in the late afternoon, not a single man was using it.

Surely these men could have worked out there, or anywhere else for that matter, that wouldn't intimidate small children and make them feel like they can't play. Not to mention allowing their mother to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea in peace.