The Extraordinary Everyday Playground

She crossed the bridge!  SHE CROSSED THE BRIDGE!  Without my help and without falling.  She crossed the bridge.  This was last Summer.  She didn't falter or doubt herself, she just propelled forward and as I held my breath, she crossed the bridge.  She never looked back.  She walked a month after her brother and she crossed the bridge alone about 3 weeks after her brother.  It's been all running across the bridge and taking on more difficult challenges each visit. That's why I love the playground.  They get to learn something new with each visit.  I get to learn something new with each visit. And I get to be astounded by what they can do on their own.

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I look for the extraordinary in the everyday and I don't have to look very far. This playground, this old playground that we have been to a hundred times this Summer, is torn down now in preparation for a brand new playground in it's place. Actually several parks in our area of the City of Chicago are getting complete overhauls and it's a great time to have little ones enjoying the parks.   But this old park's demolition is bittersweet.  While I welcome the new - sure to be safer with no splintered wooden boards - playground, I will miss it's simplicity.

This is a good metaphor for growing kids, no? Growing healthy kids are absolutely what we want, and yet, there a tinge of sadness for what is gone forever as they grow.

We go to several playgrounds around our home, and you would think it would get tedious or repetitive, but it never does.  Each visit, I am stupefied.  I am impressed and filled with wonder that these little people can just do this stuff with no help for the most part.  There are still major areas of the playground that are for big kids and they know that, but the amount of precision and coordination and just curiosity that it takes to conquer the parts they take on, astounds me.

These days we get to the playground, I release them from the stroller and I immediately split in two.  They are 21 months.  Big enough to handle a lot on their own, but also learning boundaries  (there are busy streets all around the parks), so they require constant vigilance from their caregivers when out in the "wild".

The other parents laugh with me as I chase after one and run backwards to keep my eyes on the other one.  I know one day I will be able to sit and drink a coffee while I watch my kids play, but for now, I am happy for the exercise.  They keep me on my toes and they keep my mind and body alert and for that I am thankful.  I laugh with them and I get terrified when one is out of my sight for a second only to pop back up and say, "MAW MAW" (my boy somehow has a southern drawl when saying mama) and lock eyes with me before taking off again.

I have a special affinity for parks.  Hell I lived in a park for a period of my life when I was homeless - as shared last year in this Scary Mommy post I wrote - Walk of the Not Quite Dead.  Today I have a completely different view of the Chicago Parks, as I do with everything in my life.

I love the parks.  I love the freedom they afford a mom like me who needs some containment and yet allows my kids the safety to run relatively free. FOR FREE.  I love the challenge it affords them.

I love that they get to interact with all kinds of other kids at the park and to watch that develop.  They learn to take turns and to show compassion if someone gets hurt.  How these little creatures develop socially and maneuver their way through the world at this stage is intriguing and beautifully mystifying.

They need to be allowed to hurt themselves and start to learn about consequences. Nothing awful, mind you, but a little fall isn't a bad thing. And I cannot be with two at the exact same time when they are in different places.  But I won't just keep them home and not let them experience everything life has to offer them just because it's a little trying for me at times.  I stand back and watch it all with awe and wonder and with a lump in my throat take in the magic of the extraordinary everyday.  I try to give them as much space as I can while still being at the ready to help and keep them from real harm.

This time we have here is fleeting and I don't want to miss a second of it.  I don't want them to miss a second of it.  So we clap and we celebrate every little thing.

The uninitiated kisses on the playground rip my heart into a thousand pieces and remold it into one 10 times bigger.  After being called many different (usually negative) names in my lifetime, hearing a small, "mama" and knowing it's one of my kids rockets me into another dimension.

We kiss and we hug and we high five and we talk about everything.  I want them to have everything.  And yet I want them to know that they won't get everything they want.  I want them to be fearless and yet, to know that if they are afraid, we are right here and that they will be okay. We talk about what we can do better and how to navigate this treacherous, yet absolutely exciting wonderful world they are just meeting head on for the first time.

It's simple.  It's perfect.  It's free.  The extraordinary everyday playground. It is ours for the taking.  And I am taking as much of it as we can get. Because what we get back is extraordinary.

 

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