Forced Family Fitness: Communing Awkwardly With Nature [America is Your Park]

by Charlotte on June 26, 2012 · 15 comments

Becoming one with art at the outdoor sculpture park. Just what every mother wants to see: their children for which they labored long hours playing under 10 tons of precariously balanced rusty metal!  

Monkey bars used to be my thing. I don’t want to brag or anything but in elementary school I was kind of the monkey bar specialist. Upside down, inside out, round and round: I’d practice until I had callouses on my hands (that I’d then chew off with my teeth – yeah, I was gross) and I like to think that’s what got me started in gymnastics. So the other day when my kids and I went to the park, I thought I’d show ‘em a few moves.

Have you tried the monkey bars as an adult? Have you?!

Because I think I ripped my shoulders out of their sockets. No worries, no lasting damage except to my ego but as soon as my butt hit the wood chips I realized that being able to eke out a few pull-ups at the gym is totally not the same motion as swinging from one bar to the next. So much for my functional fitness! If I’m ever stranded in an Amazonian jungle and the only way out is hand-over-hand across a pit of crocodiles I’m so dead.

But my kids whipped across those monkey bars like, well, monkeys. Little stinkers with their higher muscle-to-mass ratios! And such show-offs too! (I have NO idea where they got that from. Nor the chattering like monkeys either.) Seriously though, watching my kids brought back a lot of great memories I had of my park days as a child and it made me grateful all over again that we live in a place with such an extensive park system.

This past week we went to a park – I kid you not – six days out of seven. They’re the one place my kids can run around and scream and nobody glares at me. My personal favorite was the Sculpture Park attached to the Wiseman Modern Art Museum. (Side note: a modern art museum is probably the worst place on the planet to bring small children. Worse even than the quintessential china shop because at least if they break a cup there I can probably afford to replace it. At this museum my son sat down on a rug rolled up against the wall and none of us even realized it was an exhibit until 5 irate museum minders descended on us. Good times!)

See? Here we are at the famous Minneapolis cherry-on-a-spoon sculpture! And now that I’ve seen it in person I’m even more confused about what it means? (This trip also made me conclude that I am way too practical for modern art. I’m one of those people. I’m sorry, I just don’t get it! Although I did get a kick out of an exhibition of people from the 70′s wearing raw meat and rolling around orgiastically on the floor, just so I could say haughtily “Eh, Lady Gaga is so derivative! “)

Nothing says fun like a wall full of eyeballs! No seriously, I need this wallpaper!

We told the kids to make a sculpture out of themselves in the park. This one titled himself “Invisible Wood Elf” which was cute until he refused to go back to the car because he was still “indiwisible” and therefore outside the realm of parental authority. He even threw his shoes into the trees because elves don’t need shoes. And parents need a scavenger hunt.

My two oldest boys are at the perfect ages to be totally embarrassed by their parents. Boy #1: I can’t believe mom is making us do this. Boy #2: Yeah, this is so lame. Boy #1: Let’s just say we’re trees and maybe she’ll go away Boy #2: Wait, mom, where are you going? Don’t you want to take our picture? Boy #1: Hey, take my picture!!

And this of course is the pièce de résistance – Tantrum-ing Toddler Opus #4 (It takes some serious grit to be this upset whilst prancing in Dorothy sparkle shoes, just saying.)

This same day, I also spent an afternoon at a park on Lake Calhoun with the Minnesota Valkyries lingerie football team, interviewing them and doing the photoshoot for Shape. It was a riot but in a whole different way! My first photo shoot that had on-site security!

But the one park we didn’t go to this past week was our old fave: the playground at my children’s old elementary school. I’m too afraid to take them there anymore! And by “too afraid” I mean “too lazy.” Jelly Bean will not stay away from the broken part and I refuse to follow her every step on the equipment. That’s why I take them to the park: so I don’t have to entertain them! So here’s hoping our park wins a little love from the Coca Cola Live Positively campaign!

Have you nominated your park yet? What was your favorite thing at the park when you were a kid? Have you tried it again as an adult? Anyone else just not get modern art??
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Only legal residents of the 50 U.S. (and D.C.) who are at least 13 years old and reside within the U.S. at the time of participation are eligible to vote for a Park. Participate on behalf of a Park by: July 15, 2012. The 3 most popular Parks will be offered a grant and there will be 1 Wild Card drawing at the end of the Contest to award an additional grant. To participate, for Official Rules, and complete details including grant descriptions, visit Void where prohibited.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

roshani adhikary June 27, 2012 at 12:53 am

Ohmigosh! I’m so relieved to hear someone else had the same troubles on the monkey bar:)) I ruled the monkey bars as a kid, what happened? I think the bruising of the ego is necessary every now and then. Loved this post. Reminds me of how much I adore parks and on that note, I’m gonna haul my butt off of this chair and get outside!


Jess June 27, 2012 at 4:38 am

Great post! I was also a whizz at the monkey bars when I was a kid. I tried a few years ago. So defeating. It used to be so easy!!! The park is one of our favorite places too- it wears them out and it is free!!


Naomi/Dragonmamma June 27, 2012 at 6:38 am

We also have a bunch of weird modern art in our downtown area, much of which looks like a giant stumbled through town and dropped his toolbox: A giant pair of scissors, a giant nut and bolt, etc, and the grand finale: a giant severed hand in front of the mall.


Therese June 27, 2012 at 7:34 am

I loved the monkey bars when I was a kid too, so not being able to do them, and even having trouble just hanging on, was one of the events that caused me to work on getting back in shape a couple years ago! I am happy to say that when I tried to swing across the monkey bars a few weeks ago when my grandchildren visited, I was able to cross them easily :) We even went to a couple other playgrounds and I swung across the different kinds of monkey bars at each of them (and hung upside-down by my legs) just to be sure. It was a great feeling of accomplishment!
btw-I still can’t do a pull-up, though; I’m working on that.


Katie June 27, 2012 at 8:09 am

I live across the street from a park and I love sitting on my porch swing and watching the kids play on the swings and monkey bars. From a distance, I think kids are cute even when they are having tantrums. But I’ve never seen one thrown with sparkly shoes on. I mean….really.

And modern art? I never get it either. My tactic when I can’t get out of going to a modern art exhibit/museum is to stare at it for a long time with a contemplative look. A la Sloan Peterson in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Yes, I take art directives from cheesy 80s movies.


Heather June 27, 2012 at 9:43 am

I went to the Walker this winter and I’m not a person who understands modern art, either. I went with an open mind and really tried to “get it,” but just couldn’t.

As for monkey bars, I used to be a star on them and truly with I’d never quit playing on them. I’d be in much better shape!


Nicky June 27, 2012 at 11:04 am

I was always a failure on the monkey bars but my (now 49-year-old) rock-climber brother totally rocks them–he does some crazy slow-motion, upside-down stuff on them. My record for playgrounds when my son was younger was 5 different ones in a single day–he’s now 14 and too cool for monkey bars (until he’s older, like my brother).


Jen Sinkler June 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

You have excellent taste in wallpaper.:)


Marla-Deen June 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Being the mom of three boys, two of which are sporting short summer “buzz” cuts, I loved seeing photos of your boys sporting short do’s!
And, by the way, I miss the days at parks when they were younger and entertainment was as easy as a trip to the nearest park!


Jody - Fit at 54 June 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I am crammed for time today Charlotte but had to say that I LOVED the pics – kids are so ADORABLE & you too! :-)


Kate July 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm

First off, love the blog – but as a proud minnesotan I have to tell you – Thats the Walker Art Museum, not the Wiseman :) the Wiseman is a part of the U of M campus further into the cities.


Charlotte July 8, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Oh you are so right!!! Whoops! Thanks for letting me know. Obv I’m not a native Minnesotan:(


Kevin January 28, 2013 at 10:34 am

Do parks still have metal slides? Best metal slide tip, take a piece of wax paper to the park and sit on it the first couple trips down the slide. That waxes the slide and makes it go much faster. DO NOT use this tip before you let a young kid go down the slid. The unprepared toddler will scream all the way down the slide and shoot WAY off the end, landing in a rumpled heap. Tears will ensue. This is for older children who relish the speed. Oh, the fun we used to have at parks.

Another tip for a walk in the spring woods. Find a small sapling (2-3 inch trunk) and pull the tip of the sapling over by going hand over hand up the trunk. When you get the top of the tree all the way to the ground, have your kid crawl on the top of the tree and hold on tight. Then let go of the tree! It should give them a heck of a ride. You have to make sure they don’t let go, or you have just made a kid catapult.


Health n Fitness Care March 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Great write up, parks are good freak out place for kids and grown ups both and monkey bars are good for some quick exercise, but be careful on them!!!!


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