The Playground Years 13-August-2012
We went to the park yesterday. We haven’t gone much this summer, since the heat got completely loco. As recently as this past Christmas Break, we were still hitting the playgrounds regularly.
I was watching my kids play- on possibly the safest playground ever conceived by humanity, and I realized that once again a number of major growth spurts have slipped past me. I watched the ‘younger parents’ there with toddlers, terrified that a 6” fall onto literally what I can only guess is at least a foot of foam padding underfoot, might be the death of their child! (I was ‘that’ parent, many years ago, so I think it’s ok to poke fun now?) Then the ‘new parents’ there with their babies who couldn’t even walk yet, and I had to wonder why I myself was ‘that’ parent too at one time, taking the baby to a park? Fresh air I think was my excuse? Seemed really impractical to watch- the stroller with 300 pounds of gear, brought to the park to change diapers in a foreign and exotic location? I remember it was fun. I guess it doesn’t matter why.
I watched my kids play like fine young adults- when I was the parent there with toddlers, I was as worried about the bigger kids knocking mine around as I was about my own kids falling. And sadly, many bigger kids don’t exercise caution around toddlers. My kids not only play well around the little ones, they also often invite the little ones to play with them. They are both great with kids! (Heck, they play well with me, so I guess that’s been good training for them?) Oopsie, got sidetracked bragging here just a bit. So much to be proud of.
I thought about the kids I know who have older siblings. Often I see the middle schoolers accompanying their elementary younger brothers and sisters to the playground, but once they hit that location, the pre-teens mostly sit and watch and talk to their friends. It’s rare to see an 8th grader on the monkey bars. Not unheard of, but rare. You won’t see any high schoolers there. My Playground Years are numbered.
In the coming 2 weeks, Ezra will begin both middle school and his final year as a pre-teen. Sophie still has 2 more years of elementary school, although my playground experience has taught me that 4th and 5th grade girls aren’t that keen on the monkey bars either. More of a gathering place than a place to play.
Suddenly I wish I had blocked all this out, rather than writing a story about it!
But wait! It’s not all bad- As I was watching them play and getting all melancholy about all this, I also thought about all the awesome things we’ve done in recent years because they’re older kids now. You can toss them in the car with messy hair and day-old (2, 3, 4 day old?) clothes and not think about how many diapers or wipes you have in your arsenal. You can take them on longer roadtrips with fewer headaches. They can cook for themselves to some extent! Oooh I bet I could teach them to do laundry!?! Trips to the beach, or any other destination, require significantly less ‘care’ of them and allow the luxury of significantly more enjoyment of their company.
Puppies at play. So many things in life mimic puppies at play. Puppies get all rough-and-tumble because it’s a training ground for the day when (at least in the animal kingdom) they will have to be nimble and able to fight their way through life. All those wrestling matches with their siblings prepared them for it. Children at play on the playground are similar in many so ways. Socially as well as physically. What I hadn’t ever realized before is that the playground is a training ground for the parents, too. We just didn’t know it.
Yesterday when we left the playground, after (over)thinking about all of this, I wasn’t sad. At least, not entirely. I felt like I’d be ready to leave the playground behind when that day (all too soon) comes. It was just a training ground for our upcoming conversion of the entire planet into our grown-up playground. Kind of like graduating from one school to another. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I suppose.
Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Playground