Government shutdown is locking our kids out of playdates

October 2, 2013

Throughout the country, kids might be hearing their parents talking about a government shutdown. In our region, where national parks are our playgrounds, it’s really starting to make little ears perk up.

Why, Mommy, are the people locking my playground? Daddy, why am I not allowed to play soccer?

Oof. Melodramatic? Sure. This shutdown reminds one of Cindy Lou Who, asking the Grinch why he was taking her Christmas toys away. In a way, kids are big losers in this governmental tug of war.

On Capitol Hill, a couple playgrounds, including Lincoln and Marion parks, are locked. Want to take your tots on a walk through Meridian Hill Park in Northwest Washington? You’ll have to traverse around it, as all of the entrances are blocked. (Let’s try to think — or on second thought, don’t — about how much manpower went into closing the entrances that have no gates, shall we?)

One colleague said her 6-year-old asked why these politicians “can’t just take turns.” Maybe, some parents are saying, the politicians should take a hint from the little ones who are always being reminded to play nicely. Of course, those kids will be locked out of soccer practice this weekend. (This e-mail to parents today from the administrator of D.C. Stoddert Soccer: “Thanks to the federal shutdown the parking lot at Carter Barron has been blocked off and NPS has told DC Parks and Recreation that we may not use the field for games until they can reopen. We are exploring alternate fields but with 1294 players in these two divisions we’re not super optimistic and game cancellations maybe unavoidable.”)

A child stands on the barricade around the Lincoln Memorial on the second day of the federal government shutdown. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

A friend who tried to take his daughter to the playground posted this brilliant plan for politicians on Facebook today: “Hey political jack-wagons, instead of closing and locking the playgrounds at Lincoln park (thanks for using my tax dollars to print signs telling me that the locked doors were in fact, locked), why don’t you knuckleheads open them up and come for an hour or so and watch how kids play with one another? You may learn something about diversity, acceptance, cooperation and working together. Not a sermon; just a thought.”

Oh, and want to check out which playgrounds are closed? It’s no use trying the Internet. I did, and got this helpful message.

The National Zoo, we know, is shuttered. Pandacam? Right. Glen Echo, even, and its puppet shows — kablooey. Along with many other fun-inducing things.

And then, most importantly, there are the serious things that are simply heartbreaking: Head Start shutting down. And yes, kids with cancer being turned away from NIH and its clinical trials.

We have created lists of options for folks looking for things to do until the government is back in business.

As for those kids with cancer, or in desperate need of that Head Start? I wish I could offer something.

For now, we can just hope the politicians can figure out how to play in the sandbox together.

Amy Joyce is the editor and a writer for On Parenting.
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