The Swing Set From Hell

By: Christine Hersom

(4 minute read)

I bought a swing set for my daycare the other day. Exciting huh?

It arrived in a large box of one hundred pieces requiring “assembly.” Now you are really enthralled, right? I am a reasonably intelligent person. My Dad would have said that I was smarter than the average bear. I’m not sure whether that was a compliment or not.

I have always been very good at math. Does Geometry come into play here? I have built swing sets for my children before. BUT…little did I know this swing was from another planet. First thing there were more pieces than jellybeans in the jar at the candy store. Complaint number one. I mean really. This swing set is for preschool-age children. It shouldn’t be like building a rocket for NASA. Complaint number two – the directions had absolutely no words. They are in pictures. Pictures!

I understand the use of some common, worldwide images such as stop signs, restrooms, and crosswalks. Those are important visual images. However, in the case of construction, I want the characters, not the caricatures. Give it to me in writing. “Take pole A and attach it with screws to pole B.”

Nope. Not this swing. Pictures are all you get! And not to mention every single piece looks the same. Complaint number three.

I told myself, “Deep breath. It’s ok.” I laid all the pieces out on the lawn. Remember there are ONE HUNDRED of them. I studied my “picture” book and planned my attack. I decided to create a layout using of “built swing,” but on its side. What could go wrong?

So many things went wrong. I screwed the legs to the top of the swing… backwards. The “pictures” didn’t clearly state there were parts with grooves that needed to be slipped into other pieces. I had parts of the slide connected to parts of the swing. This intelligent, good-at-geometric-figures gal had to take it all apart and start all over.

Do not ask me about my attitude when I realized I needed a do-over!

And start over I did. Once I had the frame built (again), it was time to start putting together all the other modern-day options. There was a basket swing, hanging poles, rock walls, and other strange accessories. When I was a kid, we had swings. And if we were lucky there was a slide attached.

I made the decision to attack the basket swing first. How hard could it be? You just put curved pieces of metal through the basket material and attach the chains. Not so fast, people. It was beyond difficult. The heavy-duty nylon basket made it impossible to put the metal bars through. It is my belief that the basket had been folded years ago, put in the box, and forgotten. Or some other crazed woman returned it!

I had to soak the material and hang it up so that the wrinkles could work their way out. It was the only way the poles would fit in the slots. This added another twenty-four hours to the building project. I am now at complaint number four. I think.

The slide was the next plan of attack. I mean you only have to attach two metal sides then screw it to the swing set frame. Easy right? No! Why? Well, first the damn thing is in pictures. I had put the sides on upside down; the bottom was at the top and vice versa. Needless to say, the project was halted for yet another day.

If I didn’t have six little kids hanging around, I would have needed a serious drink. I was losing confidence fast. I began questioning my intelligence. Was I starting to suffer from dementia? How are these little kids swing sets was so hard to put together?

Day three started out with rays of sunshine and a cool breeze. The breeze felt like it was coming right off the glaciers. This didn’t bode well. Complaint number five – I HATE the cold. Yet, I had to finish this project. The ‘littles’ wanted to swing.

Down came the basket material, in went the metal bars, and voila, we have a basket swing. That only took two days. At this rate, the swing might be completed by Labor Day.

Then light clicked on. I asked my thirteen-year-old grandson to help. He is a homeschooler, so I termed this masquerade as a building project. Yes, the boy was going to get the credit. And I was going to keep my sanity.

He whipped that swing set together by the end of the day. Although I am thrilled the project from hell is complete, I couldn’t help but mull over how a thirteen-year-old succeeded where I couldn’t. I went right to the age thing. Am I getting too old? I went to the medical concern. Am I suffering from dementia? Should I be worried? This internal conversation was not a short one. Ultimately, the most important question was, “Is my thirteen-year-old grandson smarter than I am?”

When I asked him what happened, he laughed at me. He says, “Nonny you are not going crazy, and I am probably not smarter than you.” See what he did there? He used the word “probably” – probably not smarter which means in his mind, he is smarter. He explained that learning in public school now involves using pictures for everything. Arrays for math, pictures for science and social studies, and even pictures in gym class.  He also pointed out that he is an avid Lego kit builder. The directions are all pictures.

This certainly made me feel better. I respect there are visual learners where images might guide them easier than words. Apparently, I cannot follow pictures, and he excels at it.

I learned a fair amount with this little project of mine. I learned that I am not going senile. I learned that this project gave me a few hits to my ego. Just because I like to follow directions by reading them, doesn’t mean follow-by-picture directions are wrong.

As far as I am concerned, my grandson is not smarter than me (I don’t think he agrees with this assessment). But asking for help, helps, and that it is not a sign of weakness.

Just a final question to manufacturers…is it so wrong to give us both visual and narrative directions? I would rather not be seen with one hundred pieces laying all over with my next do-it-yourselfer project. Especially if children are watching. Seriously!

Christine Marshall Hersom
All Things Wellness, LLC

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