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Maggie Daley Park, a.k.a. Hell

Notes on a supposedly fun thing I’ll never subject my kid to again

Photo: Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune

Picture this: It’s summer, and all my 7-year-old wants to do is sit on the couch and play Fortnite. I lure him outside by taking him downtown to the playground of playgrounds: Maggie Daley Park. “You can test your apocalypse skills in real life!” I joke as I circle for parking. Turns out, I was not wrong.

We enter the three-acre play garden, and he is instantly subsumed by a mob of screaming children and the parents who love them. I fight my way to the top of a hill for a better look and behold the world’s biggest mosh pit for tykes.

In a nauseating version of Where’s Waldo? I scan the chaos for my son. All I can see are slides so fast it’s like they’re designed to shoot your child back to Andersonville, rope-climbing structures that require the agility of a Cirque du Soleil performer, castle-like towers engulfing children in their murky abyss. And, near the mouth of a slide, a mother attempting to capture a perfect Insta moment of her angelic daughter against a backdrop of gleaming skyscrapers just as a husky tween with a premature mustache plows into her, sending the girl face-first into a pole.

I fall to my knees and scream, “She’s just a child!”

Seemingly every parent I know has a story of chipped teeth, broken bones, or crapped pants (it’s that scary) at Maggie Daley Park. The park’s website does not provide statistics on injured or missing children, but I read in the Trib that park security officials have to reunite between 15 and 20 kids with their parents on a typical busy Saturday, and as of last August, there’s an actual lawsuit you’ll be able join once your child has broken his leg on the Play Pyramid.

When I finally find my son trapped on a rope bridge, I ask myself, Why do we even have children, much less tear them away from their iPads, where they were perfectly happy?

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