One of our favourite hang outs are the Tramway and the Hidden Gardens in Pollokshields. There is so much we love about it – a cafe and shelter, the piece and quiet of the gardens. You know, just yesterday when in the bustling noise and business of the Science Centre on a very rainy day during the school holidays, I thought to myself, why is it that something that the kids love often is the furthest from what I enjoy? I hated the fact I had to keep track of two little people, how the younger one wouldn’t nap, how the older one got hyper as time progressed. By the time we entered the planetarium, both me and little one conked out. Exhausted.
Compare this to the Hidden Garden: We play together, we relax, we all enjoy this space equally. 5 year old runs about, makes friends, plays hide and seek. I have so many great memories of the Hidden Gardens. Balancing on the walls, exploring each tree, playing tig. Even her 5th birthday party.
It’s also a place where I can actually meet with adults and bring the kids. The one place where it’s possible to have an adult conversation. The children are engaged by the environment and I can engage in a bit more than the usual superficial chit chat.
Now the Hidden Gardens have issued a code of conduct which is more than anything child unfriendly. They have consulted with parents – after the code of conduct was put together (which to me isn’t consultation but information, and I’m sure there are few who would argue that this should be called a consultation at all). The code of conduct includes that there are to be no ball games, no wheeled objects, no drawing of any kind (including with chalk on the paths or with/in dirt), no running.
Now, you tell my 5 year old not to run. She is an active and energetic 5 year old. She runs. She can’t not run. If the code of conduct asks for no running, we are effectively told to leave. All three of us. It is excluding children and their carers from enjoying this oasis of peace in the middle of the city.
I do appreciate the need to make a space work for everyone. I realise that kids can be noisy. However I’ve yet to visit the Hidden Gardens and find noisy kids because the space is just so full of zen that even the kids get it, or the noise is dissipated by the space. They may run and play but they’re not noisy – at least not in comparison to what I’m used to day in and day out.
I do understand the need for the parent to instill respect for nature and special places. I do not let my child pick flowers here, or run into the flower beds. She gets it. I have yet to be shown a child or parent who does not follow these simple rules. Moreover, there is evidence that letting children explore nature, even in places where extra care needs to be taken to ensure conservation, the long term benefits for nature are greater than the short term impact little hands and feet have on plants and wildlife.
I do understand the need to be respective of others and that there are users who are worried to be run into by bikes or scooters. We have brought scooters in but they never got used. The kids park them and then play, sit on the grass, run about and that’s it. I have yet to be shown an accident with a child’s scooter in the Hidden Gardens.
I’m all for working together, however being presented with a code of conduct (which implies misconduct, doesn’t it?) without meaningful ways of inputing into this can only mean that minds have been made up. Children are not welcome, and if my child is not welcome, neither am I because I can’t exactly leave them at the front door on a lead.
As a parent, I feel excluded from this space. There are many parents who use this space, in fact, it’s possible mostly used by parents and children. Which poses the question if this code of conduct might in fact backfire.
I would welcome the Hidden Gardens management to rethink their approach and to engage in a meaningful consultation with parents which would allow a change to the code of conduct and also a review of the vision for the Hidden Gardens. As it stands, children and parents are effectively excluded. This is a large percentage of the population, considering this is a public space. It also sends out a message about how we see our children (as little destroyers and a nuisance, rather than citizens and part of community).
In the meantime, i have a feeling the Hidden Gardens will become an oasis just for childless people. Which is a shame, because anyone with children would love to occasionally visit an oasis of calm, we might well be the ones who need it most!
Addendum: I’ve been alerted that the code of conduct apparently does not prohibit running. This was mentioned as a rule by one person. I’m not clear myself as to the extent to which the code of conduct will be enforced so that time will tell how much it will impact on families.