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From dreaded chore to wistful memory

standard January 3, 2008 4 responses

I don’t know about you, but for me, the biggest and most tedious parenting chore possible is going to the park. Give me the stinkiest diaper in the world over the tedium of the park any day. I can’t sit and read because my daughter is still too young to be completely unsupervised, but I can’t play with her on the equipment, because she’s old enough to be able to play without having me hold her hand. I stand there, in limbo, watching her pop in and out of sight, desperately wishing that she’ll miraculously get bored so we can go home. Never happens.

Just when I start to think that nothing could be more boring than standing on the corner of the sandbox (Darn it, I forgot to empty her shoes. There’s going to be sand everywhere in the morning. Gah.) C runs over to me and says, in her sweetest voice:
“Mama, I want to go on the swings.”
And then I remember; it can be worse, it can be boring and painful. Well, OK, maybe painful is a mite too strong a term, but still, you can’t ignore the risk of swing pusher’s elbow.

So then I stand there, behind the wildly swinging rubber and metal torture device, thrusting my arm rhythmically in front of me while I close my eyes and go to my happy place. My happy place doesn’t have swings. Sand maybe, hammocks at the extreme, but no swings. Oh, and no toddlers. I love that child to pieces, but she clashes with the whole beach-pina colada-pool boy-sun theme.

Anyway, from the pediatrician’s office, where we took the baby because of the cough that she can’t shake, C spotted a playground. And while I wanted to x-nay the whole thing and go home and work, I figured that she’d been pretty good all day and she deserved a little fun, so off we went. Seeing that the playground was deserted and in a nice open space where no shady characters could lurk unnoticed, I sat my behind on a bench, took out my notebook and sent her on her merry way.
“Mama. I want to go on the swings.”
The call to action came at the precise second that I put pen to paper.
“Un hun. In a minute.” I replied and turned my attention back to my page.

Needless to say, it didn’t work and a few minutes later I found myself at my dreaded post behind the swing. And that’s when I discovered that short of getting her onto the swing and getting her started, my presence was unnecessary. Someone’s taught my baby to pump. Legs up and back, up and back, up and back. Little body moving the swing better than my lousy arm thrusts ever did. On every upswing she’d throw her little head back and her long hair would stream behind her and on every downswing she’d curl up her tiny body.

I stood there and stared at her, mesmerized by her beauty and horrified by the disappearance of my baby. Watching her swing herself higher I saw just how much she’s grown in the last few months. Her body has become thinner and straighter, her vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds, but it was this final step towards independence that really made me open my eyes. My baby really is a big girl, and now that she doesn’t need me to push her any more I kind of miss my playground chore.

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