Today I took the kids to the playground.
It was a fairly nice day (by which I mean it wasn't so hot I feared we'd scald or melt or something), and yesterday we spent most of the day inside staring at the television, so out we went. I packed snacks and drinks and sidewalk chalk, grabbed the kids, and headed out the door.
When we arrived at the playground there were two other mothers just unloading their toddlers from their respective mini-vans. They were the only others there besides the groundskeeper guys who were busily mowing grass and mulching around trees and painting lines on the football fields.
The other moms steered their kids away from mine. I wasn't really surprised. Most moms who come with a friend aren't interested in talking to someone they don't know and most moms who come alone are scared of talking to someone they don't know PLUS I shave my head so I might be gay or something ::rolls eyes::
Whatever. The kids and I dumped our paraphernalia on a bench and headed to the slides and ramps.
This summer especially, I have been making it a point to play with my kids, rather than just watching them play, when we go to the playground. It keeps me active when I'd otherwise be sedentary (and since the last time I did any pointed exercise was the AT hike two weekends ago...) and well...if you let yourself go and really engage in the play, it's fun!
At first when I started really engaging in play with them I was SO tired. I just wanted to sit down. But since I've been doing it, I've had a LOT more energy to play, and I'm sure it's because I've been forcing myself into action. Taking the more interesting path rather than the easy one. Climbing with them. Swinging with them. Playing. Playing is really great exercise.
Of course the other moms did not play with their kids. They stared sort of blatantly as I played.
Normally I would've been upset and maybe even stopped what I was doing as they pushed for me to follow the social norm more closely - I've learned that we are often chastised when we break society's rules - but this time I didn't care. I was having a good time. THEY were missing out.
There's a toy at the playground that is a filter thing - you press dirt into it, the dirt goes through tiny holes and then a pipe and comes out onto the ground on the other side. Both of my kids were having a blast with it - pretending to make pancakes with the dirt and then "cleaning up" by pressing it into the sieve and watching it pour out the bottom.
The other kids came over and reached to touch the dirt, to join in the play, and a mom said, "Oh, no, we did NOT come here to play in the dirt today!" And she pulled her child away, giving me some eye contact as she did it, as though I were doing something wrong - allowing my kids to play with dirt!
Her daughter came over several times, hoping to join in the fun and finally the mother said, "I do not want you to get dirty. Play on the playground or we are going home." So the little girl sort of sullenly went back to the slide.
After the dirt we decided to draw with sidewalk chalk.
During the school year lots of the kids from Jonah's school show up at that particular playground and bring sidewalk chalk because there really is an abundance of sidewalk on which to draw. Jonah wasn't so interested in the drawing so Maeryn and I drew trees and suns and flowers.
That little girl came over again.
"Mommy, I draw!" She said, pointing.
"You can draw if you want to." I said, and moved to offer her a piece of chalk.
"We are NOT here to draw. We are here to play. Go and play and stop standing around or we are leaving right now!" Her mother said.
She and her friend then came over and watched Maeryn and me while we drew. Stood almost uncomfortably close to us, peering at what we were doing like it was some secret information. I just smiled and kept drawing.
When we finished and put the chalk away and headed over to the swings, the two moms grab their kids and left. I noticed then that one of the kids was probably eight months old and had been in the stroller the whole time. It sort of took me aback that there had been three kids that whole time and I hadn't noticed.
It was a strange sort of day of reflection for me.
I thank God that I had a mom and dad who encouraged playing and getting outside and hiking and finding bugs. I hope that all parents will take some time to really play with their children -speaking of whom, I should get off of this computer.