I saw you at the park eyeing me judgmentally, probably assuming I was too distracted by my phone to notice my kids climbing ridiculously high.
You were hovering by your toddler as she awkwardly tried to climb a small step or two. You jostled your infant on your chest as your preschooler watched in awe at the sight of the bigger kids haphazardly climbing, jumping and hanging off of things. Watching my kids, in other words.
Were you nervous that my kids were corrupting your little guy with grandiose ideas of reaching for the sky, literally? I certainly was when I stood where you are now as a tired but watchful mom of little ones.
Yet here I am relaxing on a park bench 20 feet away as my tween and younger kids find new uses for monkey bars.
And yes, I do hear them laughing hysterically as they go down the slide headfirst.
In their defense (and mine), no other kids are on that slide right now.
The thing is, I am watching my kids — but at the level they need.
I no longer have to stand next to them, vigilant of any slip or tumble or loss of balance. I can trust that, for the most part, they know what their bodies can do, handle, need.
They explore, pushing their growing bodies and minds. They are learning that the playground is much more than what meets the eye.
Just as your little one is learning at her level.
And that ladder your toddler’s so adamant on conquering? Someday she too will realize that it’s not just for climbing — but for hanging on, sliding off, even flying from.
It’ll be hard to watch as she gets more daring. Believe me, I know; my first two kids are brave, agile, fearless boys — the makings of a heart attack! What’s more is my little girl has the independence and confidence any grown woman would would envy. Add the examples of her two big, indomitable brothers and this girl thinks she can do anything!
Yet little by little, you — and they — realize they don’t need as much help anymore. It’s freeing and also a little saddening. Sure, they’ll stumble sometimes; occasionally they’ll even call on you for rescuing. They know you’re there for them, and will always be the giver of snacks and hugs and encouragement. You are their home base — their safe place where they can rest for a time.
Then they’re off again, running free.
Pretty symbolic, really.
And although your kids will always be your ‘babies,’ someday they will become the ‘big kids’ at the playground.
By then you’ll be more accustomed to their audacious, nerve-wracking tricks. You’ll cheer and applaud the feats they proudly show off — even while you still cringe a little on the inside, praying you won’t have to deal with stitches or broken bones.
I know right now it’s hard to picture your little ones — or yourself — being so carefree and uninhibited. But I promise one day the cautionary ‘don’t climb too high’ will morph into ‘watch out for the little ones.’
And girl, when you reach that day, don’t you dare blink an eye at those judgmental moms sending suspicious glances your way.
Smile as you sit back and enjoy yourself. You’ve earned this.
Just be sure to look up when your kids call your name so you can tell them how proud you are that they climbed even higher this time.