At a recent social event, another mother asked me how I spent the summer with my two children. “We went to a lot of playgrounds!” I exclaimed.
Before I could make a flippant comment about the boredom of sitting on a playground bench with no shade and no adults in sight while listening to my children scream, “Watch me!” over and over again, she responded, “Oh, I miss those playground days.”
I stopped short and looked at her curiously. “My kids are too old for that now,” she continued. “We had a summer full of football practices and cheer camp. Enjoy those trips to the playground. You’ll miss them.”
The conversation turned to another topic, but it left me wondering. Would I miss these playground days? I thought of our early days on the playground …
The days spent chasing a toddler while my infant cried in the stroller? No, I won’t miss that.
The days of not being able to sit down or hold a conversation with another mother because my son ran towards the parking lot every chance he got? No, I won’t miss that.
The days of trying to discreetly change a dirty diaper on the side of the playground only to realize I hadn’t packed any baby wipes and my son just threw the last diaper into the mud? No, I won’t miss that.
The days spent unsuccessfully trying to teach my three-year-old son not to throw playground mulch at every kid that slid down the slide? No, I won’t miss that.
The days of climbing up tiny ladders and squeezing through tiny tunnels in all of my post-partum glory because my daughter refused to go down the slide? No, I won’t miss that.
The days of dragging my crying, yelling, red-faced children off the playground because they didn’t want to go home? No, I won’t miss that.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that these playground days have evolved into something else in the past couple of years. Yes, they were a struggle at first with two children only nineteen months apart. However, as my children learned to walk, run, climb, and slide on their own, the bench on the side of the playground has been my front row seat – a seat to witness the magic of childhood. I have watched hundreds of precious moments unfold right before my eyes, and those I do not want to forget
The glint of happiness in my one-year-old son’s eyes as he giggled his way down a slide for the first time.
The determined look on my two-year-old daughter’s face as she tried to climb up the ladder just like her big brother.
My son and daughter using their imaginations to transform the playground equipment into a pirate ship, a space shuttle, or a dinosaur kingdom.
My son’s roar of triumph as he finally mastered the monkey bars for the first time.
My daughter overcoming her shyness as she yelled out to any girl on the playground, “Girl! Do you want to play with me?” And then the subsequent declarations of “This is my best friend!” as she introduced me to those she met only moments before.
My son simply running in circles as he learned to play tag with the older kids, and my deep feeling of contentment as I watched my child be included.
The squeals of delight as they both fly down the slide, arms held tightly together.
So, yes. Yes, I will miss these playground days. I will miss the days of being my children’s number one audience; I will miss having this front row seat to the wonder and delight of childhood.
I already fear our playground days won’t be the same next summer. When we go to the playground now, they like to test their limits; the mulched boundary no longer holds them back as they are eager to explore on their own. I also don’t hear “Mom, look at me!” quite as often, as they are busy plotting and executing an alien attack all on their own. They no longer need my singular audience, or my prompting of what to do next.
These playground days are just another passing phase of childhood, soon to be overshadowed by homework, sports schedules, and playdates with school friends. So the next time my kids ask to stay on the playground for just a little longer, I will try to relax, sit back on that bench, and simply enjoy the show.