If you're a parent or an older sibling, you probably know this feeling very well - the intense protectiveness and the fear of letting the child step out alone into the big and cruel world. *After all, in the words of Stephen King, "The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted.""Really! Who said childhood was the best time of life? When in reality it was the most terrible, the most merciless era, the barbaric time when there were no police to protect you, only parents preoccupied with themselves and their taller world."Ray Bradbury may be the master of nostalgia - especially for the coexisting magic and sadness of childhood which he so well shows through the prism of enchantment and loneliness and longing. Yeah, not in this story. The Playground is the dreaded Chuckie to your childhood's Kens and Barbies and cute Monster Trucks. It is the embodiment of the parents' fear for their children's happiness and security.*Mr. Underhill really loves his three-year-old son Jim. Jim is the only thing left for him to care about after the death of his wife. And Jim is about old enough to start playing at the Playground, the place that fills Mr. Underhill with - maybe unreasonable? - sinking and hollow fear. Because his own memories of childhood are not of the idyllic happy time, no Sir! Because he'd rather sacrifice himself than watch his son go through the meatgrinder that obviously scarred him in the past."To be beaten from playground to kindergarten, to grammar school, to junior high, to high school. If he was lucky, in high school, the beatings and sadisms would refine themselves, the sea of blood and spittle would drain back down the shore of years and Jim would be left upon the edge of maturity, with God knows what outlook to the future, with a desire, perhaps, to be a wolf among wolves, a dog among dogs, a fiend among fiends. But there was enough of that in the world, already."I found this short story to resonate with me to a point. I don't have kids, but I have a brother younger than me by close to a decade. I remember how scary it was to drop him off at school for his first day away from home (unlike me, he has not been through the meatgrinder of post-Soviet kindergarten years!) and watch the desperate scared look in his eyes. I remember how scary it was then years later, he found the unexpected steel in his spine to stand up for what he thinks is right regardless of whether his views were shared by his classmates, and treating the schoolyard bullied with strength and dignity that suddenly showed all of my family what an amazing young man he's growing up to be. I remember how I always wanted to shield him from the world that has teeth - and how beautifully he has done without our protection, how he did not need a well-intentioned guiding hand, how he used the meanness of the world to grow up to be a very decent man.And remembering all of that, painful as it was to let go and watch the child learn to navigate the big scary world, I feel all the sympathy for Bradbury's Mr. Underhill - and wishing that I could tell him that it would all be okay, that we all need to eventually face the world and, painful as it may be, let the ones we love face it, too. That ultimately it will all be okay. But Mr. Underhill may not heed my advice. Because sometimes self-sacrifice is the only way you can cope, the only way you can show love. And I will watch him from the distance, from outside the Playground, with sadness and sympathy."Thank God, childhood was over and done for him. No more pinchings, bruisings, senseless passions and shattered dreams."