Tag Archives: Playground

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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Jinx!

A mother’s work is never done. Some days that old adage couldn’t be truer. The other morning at breakfast the kids kept yelling, “Jinx!” out of the blue when the other was saying any old thing and no one else was talking.

“Today I have PE and…”

“JINX!”

Sometimes the rules of childhood games are not spelled out clearly enough to my offspring. They don’t understand the concept so they fill in the blanks themselves, creating a jumble of nonsense that even they don’t quite follow when they play together.

“You call jinx when you both say the exact same thing at the exact same time,” I told them. I didn’t go into the penalties related to jinx, such as then not being able to speak until someone says your name. Specifics would only confuse them more. We could get into that later.

Oh, that’s simple. Now they got it. Now hearing jinx when other kids argue, “That’s mine!” over a splintered, chewed-up pencil would make perfect sense. When you’re one of two kids who simultaneously yell, “Stop it!” at the annoying kid who is singing while she reads, be the first to say, “Jinx.” Gotcha.

Breakfast resumed. And then my daughter spearheaded another jinx effort. “OK, let’s both say Milk at the same time. Milk.”

“Milk,” my son echoed.

“Ugh. Try again,” my daughter prodded. “Say Q. 1, 2, 3, Q.”

Pause.

“Q.”

Still not in unison. This could take some practice.

“You can’t plan jinx,” I told them.

Yeah, clear as mud.

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Filed under Everyday Life

Boys Will Be Beasts

Some days after school, I let the kids play on the playground with friends. It’s a welcome change from our usual routine of coming home, fighting over who gets in the door first, shoving food into mouths, and rushing outside where I am the coach, referee, shortstop, quarterback, or freezing cold icicle who monitors the kids in the street.

On the playground, I still shiver and freeze, but I learn something as I watch the boys. The playground is much like the wild, where male animals tangle and butt heads to decide a leader or the victor of some great territory. Like them, the boys need to assert their power, find their rank, or prove they can take the hits. Here they learn to tackle, wrestle, and fling each other around like beasts, but they do it with snaggle-toothed smiles, chocolate milk breath, and dimpled giggles.

We parents on the sidelines watch, flinch, and think, “Oh, was that jab all right?” only to see the boys dart away covered in mulch, panting and laughing, and chasing the next boy.

They are wild beasts, a species I don’t fully understand. What is the appeal of having someone throw you to the ground? What makes them beg each other to wrestle and kick the crap out of each other? I keep my eye on things, and I keep a safe distance from these wild creatures.

I do not have the wildest of sons. I trusted him alone with his newborn sister at the age of two and peeked around the corner as he simply read and talked to her. Now when the urge to wrestle strikes before his dad comes home, he begs her to take him on. But he takes whatever pummeling she gives him with giggles and smiles. He knows when to back off. He flinches when a herd of players stampedes his way during a game, but he does his best to keep up with the pack. He doesn’t deliver a wallop of a punch, but he likes the interaction.

Even as a mom whose urge is to protect, I understand boys need that craziness they call play. I’ve read a lot about boys needing to play rough. It’s good for them, even if it’s absurd to me. We parents on the playground sidelines scratch our heads, but we all come to the same conclusion: It’s what the boys seem to need.

Getting physical helps my son release his energy in a positive way. He can be physically close without being mushy. Boys just don’t hold hands or hug a lot the way girls do. He learns not to be too rough with others (though sometimes a punch in my husband’s groin goes too far). And this type of play helps him learn how to read other people: Is he making them mad or are they playing? Being around other beasts his age seems to help him learn the rules of the playground kingdom. Everyone gets to be It. They pick each other up and dust each other off. Then the chase and tackle resumes again.

I’d rather see my son do it with other consenting beasts than with his sister or me. And it sure saves me a lot of bruises.

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Filed under Boy Stories, Everyday Life