Let me tell you right up front that when I announced to my younger children that we could go to the park tonight, it was with mainly selfish motives. We made the soccer practice drop-off, and headed over to the playground with almost 90 minutes of "wait time" ahead of us. I brought my reading material for May along, and even some apples and a water bottle. That's right; kids play, mom reads. My days of trailing toddlers through the equipment are OVER. After almost 18 years of following, I'm feeling more than ready to take up my new position: on the bench. And this is how it went down.
I settled myself in a very central location, knowing that even though I was about to completely lose myself in a novel, I could still be available, should something need watching or should someone require a little cheering on. I even refused to get up to help my own flesh across the monkey bars. No way. I was letting my guard down. Indulgence in the form of fresh air reading. With happy-children-playing noises in the background.
I should have known better. Once you commit to this thing called motherhood, is there really a moment when you can totally let the guard completely fall? I know I read at least a few paragraphs. I have no idea what they said. My radar was honing in on a major distraction: adolescent pubescent tweens. They were using most of the swings and camping out on one of the slides. At first I thought I could deal with it. My radar became the glare of a hawk. I was taken aback by some of the posturing, physical inuendo and general behavior of two of the people on the slide. I felt my glare intensifying, and I wanted to burn a message into their 12 or 13 year old brains: Someone's mother is watching you. They weren't receiving it. I found myself becoming irritated at their seeming indifference. Preschool age children were having to avoid the slide, because the tweens were oblivious to the fact that they were in the way. Not only were they in the way, they were on display. I tried to look the other way. I tried not to care. I couldn't do it. I wanted to know if they would be doing the same things or saying the same things if it wasn't me there at the park; if it were one of their parents instead. I wanted to follow them home and ask their parents if they were alright with what was going on while they weren't watching. Actually, I became so torqued-up about it, I couldn't sleep after getting into bed tonight. My thoughts spilled-over from the playground to the school bus. To recess. To environments that I cannot control, or in many cases, even see. It was intimidating. The tiny forces of a parent, versus the enormous influence of the world. I had to get out of bed and seek something comforting. I opened this month's Ensign magazine to an article called "Gifts to Help Us Navigate Our Life." It was a good beginning.
Back at the park? In a voice that was as controlled as I could make it, I asked them to move so the kids could use the slide. They weren't quick and they weren't even polite about it. Female tween gave me a crusty stare. Honestly? I didn't care. I wanted to say SO much more, but knew that it would have fallen on deaf ears. What I DID say (later to my husband) was that I now know that I will NEVER be able to let my guard down at the playground. And I'm okay with that.