The Playground the Way It Was Meant to Be

Three days earlier, sleet and giant snowflakes fell, disrupting our way to warm weather. Now that it had arrived, the kids begged to spend the afternoon at their favorite playground. My husband and I plopped onto a metal bench, absorbing the heat we yearned for all winter.

“Remember when they were little and we always had to get up and help them?” I said. It required physical work for us to be at the park. Lifting the kids in and out of the swings. A shoe would fall off multiple times and need to be refastened. Or maybe my daughter would get stuck in those stupid toddler swings because I just couldn’t lift her up another inch to get her out. We had to push them “higher, Momma, faster.”

We had to hold their hands up the steps or help them climb the rock wall, plead with them not to stand too close to the open space at the tippy-top, or stuff our fannies into the tunnel and pretend it was a cave. We went down the slide with a kid in our lap or stood at the bottom to catch our precious cargo. We had to run at lightning speed to save our oblivious children from high-flying swings. Our arms became limp from holding our children up to the monkey bars so they could cross “one more time.”

I used to look with envy at the moms sitting on the benches, reading with not a care in the world while their children ran off and played. I’d glare at them when their kids ran up the slide and taught my toddler such dangerous maneuvers. I’d silently curse those parents for not keeping a watchful eye on their kids when they said words like stupid around my parrot-like angels.

Now I have finally graduated to the playground sidelines. No more chasing my kids. They run free and climb, the way play at a playground was meant to be. I watch as they cross the monkey bars with their own two hands. The only ache in my back now comes from the metal bench I’ve been sitting on. They explore the nearby creek and woods, sometimes out of sight for long stretches of time. I catch a glimpse of a pink shirt or hear my son’s loud voice, confirming all is well.

They follow each other like ants up and down ladders and fireman’s poles. They climb up the slide while other mothers tell their toddlers not to do the same. They say “stupid” and I tell them not to, but it falls on deaf ears.

Younger moms chase their tots, grabbing them before my kids’ high-flying swings mow them down. They help their kids up and down steps and catch them at the end of the slide. The newer moms make friends and play dates, while I just yearn for some quiet time and peace on a bench.

I watch the younger moms with their chubby-handed kids, giggling and running. I don’t miss it. I watch my kids run off, graze hands, giggling and making plans. I’ve started a new chapter. I open my book.playground

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33 Comments

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33 responses to “The Playground the Way It Was Meant to Be

  1. Nicely written. My daughter will soon be at the age when she can round around by herself. I’m cherishing the moments with my son till he grows older and do not need me to hold his hands.

  2. Just lovely! I could have used your equanimity some years ago…..!

  3. May

    This is beautifully written 🙂 I’m getting the best of both worlds with the girls I nanny at the moment. The baby still needs me to hold her hand while she toddles along but is quite happy to stand on the bench next to me and people-watch. The 2 1/2 year old doesn’t want me following her around; occasionally comes to ask for a boost into a swing or onto the pirate ship but mostly she is Independent and ICanDoItMyself! I just keep a watchful eye as she strides off to explore. I have to admit I enjoy my park bench time.

  4. Lovely post 🙂 My eldest had just gotten to the Mr Independent stage now!

  5. My first post was along these lines. It is a nice feeling but sad too.

  6. I love the double meaning I read in your last two sentences. I love your experiences and the way you recount them!

    • Thanks. 🙂 I sit on the same playgrounds my kids played on when they were younger and have lots of memories: my son learning to walk, my daughter’s first go down a slide. I loved it all but I like where I am now too.

  7. What a delightful piece.

  8. My son is still at the hand holding phase. You have made the next step sound very welcoming indeed.

  9. Interesting! I’m still that young mom, and sometimes deceive myself that a trip to the park would give me a break. Nope! But it is still fun, and I always remember why God gives us children while we are still young.

    • It’s rarely a break at that age but always a change of scenery at least! When my son was younger, my husband worked nights. I took him to the park every day. It was just good to get out of the house.

  10. Beautiful post. I’ve moved to a self-hosted site so please follow me there: http://lifewithpinkprincesses.co.uk

  11. Gosh this parenting stuff is so much harder than anyone could have said. I roll my eyes as I put down my margarita and leave my relaxing chair in the back yard to go save Doodle from the climbing wall or push him for the billionth time on the darn swing, but I found myself welling with tears reading this realizing that day will happen eventually and he won’t need my help. I’m glad you don’t miss it, gives me hope that my soft heart will make it through that transition. Thank you for this post. As Doodle has just started calling me mom and doesn’t want my help going up the stairs anymore, I feel this incredible sadness knowing that this chapter is nearing its end. Good to know there’s another chapter waiting for us.

    • Oh, don’t let me fool you. I’ve wept plenty of baby tears over the fact that my kids have moved onto bigger things. But I have come to embrace the fact that they are getting older, more independent, and that they still need me. And I kind of like where we are. Do I really want to go back to where I’ve come from? No, not really. Sometimes they’ll do something or I’ll remember something and it will catch in my throat and take my breath, but most days, I just look forward. Most, not all.

  12. Great piece, especially the last two sentences!

  13. Beautifully written! I too shared your longing of the bench, the quiet moments, and the luxury of a book. Now I have those things and I am quite content with it. I do not miss having to be on constant watch. We, both my kids and I, are growing up together just in different ways.

  14. perfect. beautiful picture of that was then, this is now. great end.

  15. beautifully written… I need a reminder that the growth of chubby cheeks and chunky fingers isn’t a loss, just a change. A new opportunity…

  16. Lovely writing as always! I also have longed for those times when I could relax at the park. We’re closer, but our 4 year old still wants me to play with her at the playground. I hope to cherish this time, knowing it will pass soon, but mostly I just want to read a good book. Enjoy!

  17. I guess I have the best of both worlds…. One who will always need close monitoring… And the two older ones? Well they wander but take the youngest with or ditch us both on the bench… But we trade the watchful eyes!!! 🙂

  18. Gosh, I’m so not looking forward to this summer. My daughter is just at the age where she doesn’t need to be watched every second, but my twin boys will be 2 in June so…yeah. I envy the bench squatters. Great post!

    • Just remember, we put our time in! 😉 Look on the bright side, chasing two two-year-olds will be your workout for the day. I used to never have to exercise when my kids were young. Bench squatting doesn’t make for lean abs.

  19. I loved this. It’s so nice to enjoy those new stages.

  20. Like getting a new sew-on badge for your sash!! It was a great day when I went to the park and entirely ignored my kids. A great day indeed. All the way up until my youngest sliced her foot because she wanted to hop rocks in the creek bed barefooted. *sigh*

    • Oh yes, we moms can’t get too cocky with our new freedom, can we? When I let my kids start to play in the street by themselves, I thought all was good and well. And then one night I noticed my daughter was just riding her bike out of the driveway without even looking. Back to square one.

  21. oh – i am you, sitting there reading my book and glancing around. i watch them all as well. all those young moms making friends, all the babies toddling about. it’s a whole new world on the bench, and right now i’m enjoying.

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