I heaved a sigh as I wandered through our ransacked house, arms full of an odd assortment of toys and trash. No thieves, no earthquakes, no cabin fever. Just kid-sized messes piled upon kid-sized messes in every single room and I knew. Cleaning suddenly seemed to require monumental patience and effort on my part. I dug down deep and… I couldn’t find it in me.
So we went to the park instead.
I pushed the boys in the stroller and the girls rode their scooters, sans helmets. (I’m still not used to U.S. laws about those blasted helmets.) We rolled up to the playground and I let the kids run wild and free. Scooters were abandoned, shoes were tossed into the stroller, and my minions barreled off to climb, run, swing, and slide to their hearts’ content. I chose a prime viewing spot and promptly stuck my nose in a book.
Of course, it’s not relaxing to read at the park. Every 30 seconds I glanced around and took a head count.
1, 2, 3, 4.
1, 2, 3, 4.
I shoved my sometimes-helicopter tendencies way down deep, though, and chose not to interfere. My kids need time away from me for a few minutes each day. I need peace for those same minutes. While I was present, I kept my distance.
Suddenly, I got that vague sense of being watched. I glanced up. 1, 2, 3………(there he is) 4. Number 4, otherwise known as Zeke, was climbing up the slide while a little girl tried to slide down. Her mom, with another baby strapped into a Baby Bjorn, was attempting to mediate the situation. All the while, she was glancing at me with something akin to disbelief. I debated my options and decided that she had her hands full with two almost-babies and stepped in to redirect Zeke.
After the “problem” was resolved, I went back to my perch and glanced around again. This time I noticed something odd. In a nearly-enclosed playground, there were 17 children and… 18 adults. The adults were following their children around, helping them climb things and keeping them from harm. I was the only parent sitting down.
My need to conform kicked in and I rose to my feet. I am a good parent, but it probably doesn’t look like it. These people think I’ a bonbon-eating, children-ignoring, absent mom. We certainly can’t have that, now can we?
I noticed then that the older three had taken over the tire swing and I called Zeke over. It’s his very favorite thing after all and I didn’t want him to miss out on the sibling fun. He happily joined in and I snapped a picture.
It was through the lens of my phone camera that I noticed the legs of another boy. Darn it. He’s waiting. Now what? Do I ask the kids to get off and let him have a turn? Do I let them work it out themselves? I split the difference and told them they could swing for a couple more minutes and then they had to give the other boy a turn.
But then the boy said, “Oh, it’s okay. I don’t mind waiting.” Wow. I thanked him and headed back to my bad-mom perch.
As I sat down with my book, I turned around and to what did my wondering eyes appear?
The boy was pushing my kids on the swing. And they were loving it!
“See what happens when you don’t interfere?” I muttered to myself.
Feeling quite self-righteous, I turned to watch the other parents at the playground. Zeroing in on Mom-with-the-Bjorn, I tried to figure out what made her playground parenting so different than mine. And then I saw it. Dress shirt, slacks, high heels. This woman didn’t come to the park to get a break from her kids. She came to enjoy it with them. Compassion hit me like a ton of brick. I remember those days. The days of working until I nearly dropped from exhaustion, then rushing home to squeeze every last drop of together time with my daughters. I also vaguely remember watching those parents who sat back and let their kids run wild at the playground. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t play with their kids.
I get it now.
I stand by my playground parenting. There’s nothing wrong with the way I do it. But to that mom and every other one who needs every precious minute of togetherness, I stand by you too.
This is post 3 of my 7 Posts in 7 Days.
Or #7×7 as I like to call it.
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