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A Day at the Park

March 9, 2012

This week, BC teachers went on strike for three days to bring attention to their stalled contract negotiations and some serious concerns over classroom size, composition and adequate freakin’ funding for our education system….!  (Ahem.)  

So today, some friends and I took the opportunity to get together at a park with our kids and let them play.  Preparing for the outing consumed most of the morning – I packed warm clothes, cookies, sandwiches, water, fruit, a picnic blanket, Baby’s carrier, and Big Kids’ bikes. Upon arrival I carted all this into the park, set up shop and settled in to do what we moms do best – chat.

A dad asked me once, ” Why do you moms take your kids to the park when you don’t even play with them when you get there?  You just stand on the side and gab with the other moms and basically ignore your kids unless they’re about to fall off/have just fallen off a ledge higher than themselves or are about to injure/have just injured another child.”

“Exactly!” I replied.  “That hour might be the only time we get to talk to another human even close to our own age and have a break from engaging with our own frustrating, trying, exasperating offspring.”  

Plus mom chatting is not trivial stuff.  Today I learned where to get winter coats for a screaming good deal (think next year), which store is carrying kids Bogs (perfect for our long, wet Springs that sometimes last until July), a great idea for an 8-year old girl’s birthday party craft/take home treat (adhesive grout + mosaic material (beads, marbles) + terra cotta pots, planted with a forced bulb), and about an easy way to package kids lunches so they stay fresh and don’t use excess packaging.  We networked and shared ideas for meals and parenting strategies.  We watched each others’ kids play, offered them food, wiped their noses, and escorted them to the bathroom.  One mom left for half an hour to go to a doctor’s appointment.  Another mom left her kids under our supervision to go to work for a couple of hours.  Grandma showed up to take those kids home when she was delayed. Our group grew and shrank over the course of the afternoon.

An hour into a game of freeze tag, my Big Boy tripped over another kid’s foot and slammed his knee into the divider keeping wood chips separate from the grassy area.  The resulting bleeding gash was pretty nauseating, but he’s at an age where I’m trying not to hold him on my lap and let him wipe his snotty nose on my shoulder while he cries.  Instead, I rubbed his back, slapped a Band-Aid on the wound, and encouraged him to get back in the game.  He needed more time to recover, and I was getting more and more embarrassed by his sobbing.  I was about to escort him to the van for a time-out to get control when a friend sat down beside him and started to distract him by doing a running commentary of the kids on the playground.  “I’m going to pick my nose, I’m looking around to see if anyone’s watching, I think no one is watching so I’m going to dig my finger in there…awww, gross!  He did it!  He picked his nose!  Now look at that kid, he just fell down. He’s looking to see if his mom noticed.  Should I cry?  No, she didn’t notice.  I better just get back up and keep playing.  No, maybe I’ll go see what that kid is eating, looks like he might have some goldfish crackers…”  She had my son in stitches as they giggled conspiratorially over the antics of the other kids there.  When I was at the end of my rope, she rappelled in to take over.  

We started out as moms at a playgroup, indistinguishable in our comfy clothes and incoherent from lack of sleep, trying to find a kindred spirit.  The women I gathered with at the park have become an extended family.  We have watched each others’ kids teethe, learn to crawl, struggle with sleep and eating habits, learn to swim, and ride bikes.  Now we are agonizing with them over schoolyard politics, lost teeth and learning to read.  We are an extended community of aunties that our kids can go to if they need anything. 

A couple of years ago I moved to a new community half an hour away from where these friendships were forged.  The distance is just far enough that getting together requires a little more planning when you factor in the driving time.  Our lives have changed, too.  We are no longer at home all day with hours to fill between naps.  My friends are back at work, and kids are in school and after-school activities.  Free time is scarce.  But the easy, relaxed afternoon we spent together made up in quality what we’re missing in quantity.  The bonds of our friendship were strengthed, and I left feeling restored.

A few hours at the park reminded me how important it is not to parent in a vacuum (and in fact, how important it is to ignore your vacuum and get outside in order to be a good parent).  I need to chat with my coworkers to remember that no one has an easy time at this job, everyone’s children are exasperating at times, and when I don’t have an appropriate reaction to my children’s behaviour, someone else might.  At the same time, I might have an idea that works with a friend’s child’s temperament.  It takes a village, people!  

I might add that spending a few days with my children makes me appreciate what a wonderful job teachers do of guiding children’s behaviour and inspiring our kids to learn.  I appreciated the extra time with my kids, but I can’t say I stepped in to fill their wonderful teachers’ shoes.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2012 6:23 pm

    Plus mom chatting is not trivial stuff
    –I 100% agree.

    • Mairi King permalink*
      April 6, 2012 4:49 pm

      Thanks for reading and writing!

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