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.
"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."