As parents, we need an escape from the kids every now and then. With toddlers, sometimes it feels as if this escape is needed DAILY (hourly? Only half-kidding). Going to the park is somewhat of a win-win; they get to play, and I check my email, facebook, IG, twitter…I mean, sitting on the bench and stealing a few cruises through social media is an earned benefit, right?? No shame in that.
Sometimes, though, when we are at the park and I watch my son and daughter play, I make a conscious effort to put my phone away after snapping a couple of pictures. Last week when we went, I watched them with intent. There is something healing about watching children squeal in pure GLEE. Watching as they took turns down the slide and yelled joyously made me smile. My daughter inspired me as I pushed her on the swing and she leaned all the way back, with no fear, and sighed deeply with a huge smile on her face. She giggled as I pushed her higher and higher, anticipating each sway. I just smiled at her, feeling wistful inside at her carefree state. Pure, unadulterated joy for life. How must it feel to wake up with nothing on your mind but mommy, daddy, brother/sister and breakfast? My son, being a little older, has slightly more on his mind– such as, what to bring for show and tell? And, “am I going to buy more popsicles from the store today because he ate the last one yesterday?” To be a child 🙂
Even as simple as his worries are, I remember when he was just like her, with zero worries about ANYTHING. He is maturing, soaking up vocabulary, learning how the world around him works, and how mommy and daddy’s routines affect his popsicle consumption. He asks a million questions about the weather, the car, trees, etc…and is sure to educate little sister about all he learns throughout the day. My joy is undeniable at his growth and maturity, yet I am secretly happy that he is still considered “toddler” age, still thinks the wind is magical, and still looks forward to seeing those blowup men dance in the wind outside the car dealerships as we pass by. I hold on to those things he’s loved since the tiny baby years, which I now see as golden (on top of exhausting). These toddler/pre-K years are almost equally magical, as they are growing, processing, and questioning the world around them through unfiltered eyes, and with the help of my answers, observed routines, and feedback.
When my daughter is about to slide, she looks around for me first. “Am I safe? Can I go now? Any surprises at the bottom?” her brown eyes inquire. I smile, encourage her to go, and sometimes wait for her at the bottom. Now, she looks for me less and less- she embraces the thrill of letting go, sliding down, and doesn’t hold back her delight. My son (3.5) is way past this stage, as I often have to remind him not to slide headfirst. He is all in! I am amazed at their fearlessness at times!
Often, I still feel overwhelmed and somewhat startled at the prospect of two little humans using me as their compass in life. The older they get, I embrace it more as I learn that they won’t benefit from me worrying about life. They are happy because they see me happy, because my husband and I laugh and play with them, and because we try not to take life so seriously all the time. However, this last month has been stressful (work, etc) and one evening, my son said, “Mommy, are you going to be happy tomorrow?” To see him look so concerned just crushed me. He had perhaps noticed my furrowed brows, my frustration, and lack of engagement. My stress had clearly affected his sense of security. I just hugged him and said, “I’m happy now because you’re here.” He grinned, high-fived me, and ran off to his room.
I sat there thinking how nothing was more important than his well-being, which means that our well-being as parents is equally, if not more important. We are their baseline; and while I try to be truthful with them and not pretend everything is perfect all the time, I was reminded how much their personality development is based on of our reactions and response to circumstances around us. No easy answers in parenting! I think just getting used to that fact helps me to not to panic about every single mistake I make. Sometimes, I just need to escape WITH my kiddos and see life from their perspective. A 30 minute visit to the park not only works for them (and encourages naptime!), but helps me put things into perspective as well.
When is the last time we, as adults, let ourselves be so worry free that we did not modify our voices because of who was around? (Now, don’t go pushing your cart around at the grocery store, squealing in delight. Inside voices, y’all). But in the appropriate setting, outdoors, space galore, worry free- why not relax and enjoy life? Smile, laugh, or just sit in silence. But let the worries go for half an hour, at least.
Some days, I follow my kids to the happy place!