Yesterday afternoon, after we went to enroll Isaac for karate (more on that later!) I took the boys to a nearby playground. We normally spend time at this playground in the mornings or on the weekends, and the afternoon crowd was very different. First of all there was a crowd, which we aren’t used to.
The playground was crawling with kids and there was an entire picnic table full of moms chatting and laughing. I actually thought there was some kind of neighborhood association thing going on. They had large mixing bowls full of snacks and seemed like they knew each other really well–maybe they meet there every Friday afternoon. Every once in a while, they would holler to their older children (most were around Isaac’s age) and make sure the older kids were looking after the younger kids. Every once in a while they would scream, “Garrett, where are you?……WHERE ARE YOU?!?!!?” (my heart always seizes up when I hear a mom calling for her kids like this) and then finally the kid would emerge from the woods. The moms were eating chips and laughing and their kids were happily playing on their own. I felt a pang of jealousy.
When I’m at the playground with the boys they always want me to push them on the swings, chase them, drive them in the pretend car (to Disney World! to China!), be a robot–NO, I’m the robot, no wait–PIRATES, and then we’ll play hide and seek. You get the picture. It’s not that they can’t play alone or with other children. They can and they do, but no matter how many kids are around, they want me TOO. And for the most part, I oblige them.
Believe me, I am not tooting my own horn here. Put away your mother-of-the year awards. There are so many times when I am home with the boys and I am just not “present”. I’m on the computer too much, I read blogs at the breakfast table, I just want to vacuum, for pete’s sake. I honestly would rather clean my house than play with my children. I don’t ignore my kids at home, but I could do a lot better.
So the thing is, when we go somewhere, I’m all in. At the science museum, at the library, storytime, the playground. Let’s do this. It’s one reason I flat out refuse to have a cell phone that has internet (go ahead and laugh–I have a Motorola Razr). I waste enough time on that kind of stuff at home. I want to be present with them when we’re out and about. I enjoy it, and they deserve it.
Please, also don’t read into this that I am slamming the other moms hanging out at the picnic table. For all I know, they spend all day doing one on one crafts with their kids at home (gag me with a spoon) and making organic baby food. The fact is, I was envying their nerve to leave a 4 year old in charge of a toddler. I was wondering what their secret was that they could call for their child twice and not need immediate CPR when they didn’t get an answer. I even wondered if I was doing my kids a disservice by playing with them so much and not saying, Look, go figure it out. You’re a kid! I was quite jealous of all the laughter and the regular-ness of it all…..not to mention the snacks.
As I pushed the boys on their swings, as I “drove” us to Disney World, as I played chase trying valiantly not to pee my pants, I watched the moms wistfully.
Then Isaac wanted to be a robot and he was chasing Matthew and me (Matthew has an aversion to any game that involves me running FROM him or them, so I have to carry him with me during any hide and seek/chase games). I would run, with my almost-4 year old in my arms, up the ramps of the play structure, over the bridge, to the very top where the spiral slide was and then down we would all come, in a noisy, red-faced heap.
As I repeatedly made these rounds, and slid down the spiral slide with one boy in my arms and one boy on my back, both of them squealing and laughing and screaming with joy, I found that I just wanted to burn this moment in my brain. In my head I kept thinking, remember this feeling, their laughter, all of this love, the sunshine, the sheer perfection of your life. Memorize it now.
And finally I realized–I didn’t belong at that picnic table. I was right where I wanted to be all along.