Monday, July 29, 2013

throw back

I wrote this story recounting an afternoon we spent at a local park back in March of 2012 and thought I'd share it here today.  Hope you enjoy it!

"Here we are," I say as I open the door of the van.  He hops out and runs to open the trunk and pull out his tractor.
"Why don't I help you with that, buddy," I ask as I get the baby's bag ready to go.
"I can do it, Mama. See?"  He pulls with all of the strength his little four-year-old body can muster, and it comes banging and clanging out of the back and onto the pavement.
"Wow!  You're really strong," I say.
"I know," he replies with a huge smile, proud of himself. I get the stroller, the diaper bag, and our lunch, load Annabel up, and we head for the picnic tables.

"Wheeeeee," he yells as he flies down the hill with legs stuck straight out to the sides.  I call to him to be careful and consider making him slow down but don't. I watch to see what he does and sure enough, he drags his feet to slow down at just the right moment proving to me that my tendency is to overprotect. Some things he can learn on his own.

We get to the picnic tables overlooking the lake, and I pull out our lunches. Instead of making him sit still and eat, I watch him as he runs, eats, rides his tractor, eats, climbs, eats, jumps, eats and finally declares himself full. I clean up lunch and we continue on, stopping at the first little playground where he scoops up some snow that has managed to hang around despite the spring weather, makes some snowballs, and throws them at nothing. Then he swings, climbs, slides, and over and over. When he says he's ready, we move on heading over the bridge and down the path through the trees. He races ahead and although my instinct is to want to call to him to wait, I bite my tongue again and watch. Sure enough, at just the right moment he stops, turns around to find me, and waits, again proving my tendency to be over-protective. 

There now. Be quiet and wait. He knows what to do. You've already told him a million times. 
I think to myself that parenting is a balance between teaching and observing. Sometimes I teach too much and observe too little.  I make a mental note to work on it and catch up to my boy as he's dragging a long stick out of the weeds beside the lake.

"Whatcha doin'?"
"Goin' fishin'."
"Ok, I think there's a good spot up here.  Want me to carry your stick?"
"No, I can do it," he replies as he fastens it to his tractor.
"Ok, let's go, it's right up here."

We walk a little ways to where the brush opens up and there's a place for him to play. Annabel's saucer eyes have gotten heavy so I push her back and forth, back and forth, until she gives in and goes to sleep. Then I sit down on the bench to watch and wait. We have nowhere to go or be, no other plans for this day, so I am determined to take it slow, not be in a hurry, and let Tommy play until he's tired or it gets dark, whichever comes first.

So I watch as he fishes, digs for worms, jumps over the mud, splashes his stick in the water, sings, and then slips and falls into the mud. He looks at me, wondering what I'll say about his now dirty pants and sleeves. When I laugh he laughs, too, and goes back to the business of being four and exploring his world.

Eventually he tires of his spot and we move on, slowly meandering down the path with stroller and stick in tow.  A woman passes us as we walk and while she is obviously walking this half-mile loop for exercise, we are just as obviously walking it with no agenda what-so-ever.  We make it about 30 feet down the path before she laps us, again smiling and saying hi.  When she laps us for the fourth time, she pauses to ask how old my boy is and comments that she "remembers those days.  The days of taking 15 minutes to go about 10 feet."  I smile and nod and agree that that's how it is with us these days.  Then I look at my phone and realize it's taken us an hour to walk about a quarter of a mile.  But my boy is happy and having fun, and my baby girl is getting a good nap, and at that moment, all is right in my world.

A little while later we make it to the playground.  Annabel wakes up so I push her in the swing and try to memorize her huge smile and the sparkle in her eyes as she flies back and forth, back and forth.  Tommy slides and swings and climbs and calls for us to join him so we do.  I climb up the steps, put Annabel in my lap, Tommy hangs onto my back, and we slide around and around, laughing all the way down.  I never want this day to end.

But eventually it gets late, the sun starts to head down, and the other responsibilities of this day come creeping into my head:  dinner, baths, time with daddy, bedtime.  And so we go.  We finish walking the final section of the loop and head back up the hill to the van where Tommy says to me, "Thank you for taking me on a walk, Mama."  I buckle Annabel up, smile at her and then at my boy, who politely reminds me, "Mama, you're supposed to say 'You're welcome'."  I laugh and say, "You're right buddy, sorry.  You're welcome.  Love you."

"Love you, too, Mama."

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