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.