Tag Archives: playgrounds

The Star Wars connection

We went to the playground on what turned out to be the last day before the weather got properly cold. We had nowhere else to be and nothing else to do. It turns out that if you stay long enough at a playground, the children will find friends.

Dash was hogging the digger in the sand area. I hate those diggers – the little kids are desperate to have a turn, but once they finally get their little bums up in that coveted seat, they find that their arms are too short and their feet don’t reach the ground and they have no leverage to dig the sand, pivot, release. So they frustratedly have to return it to the big boys. I don’t know why nobody makes miniature ones for the poor two-year-olds.

Dash on the digger, Mabel sprinkling sand

A small four-year-old boy hovered in the background, and eventually Dash was persuaded to give him a turn. As I predicted, he didn’t last long before ceding it again, and I suggested that he help bank up the pile of sand from the ground instead. A few minutes later he was helping Mabel bury herself under a thin layer of fine, cold, fallen-leaf-riddled sand.

And then the three of them were off to the swings, and somehow Star Wars came up in conversation.

“I’m not so much interested in Star Wars,” said Mabel. “I like Ponies.”

Our new friend, the small four-year-old, turned out to have quite an extensive knowledge of Obi Wan and the others, and soon, in spite of their difference in ages and heights, he and Dash were firm friends. They all ran to the slides next. Mabel and Dash encouraged the friend to climb up the inside of the enormous tunnel slide.

Mabel at the top of the slide

I sat nearby, beside a very groomed mother, reminiscent of Annette Bening or Miranda from Sex and the City, and we laughed in unison as the dialogue floated down the tunnel and over to us. Mabel was encouraging the younger boy:

“Just a few more steps. You’re nearly there…” They were about a fifth of the way up the huge tunnel at this point, but she was lying through her teeth and he was gamely giving it his all. Then a kerfuffle and a wobble in the middle of the tunnel, and they all came down in a happy pile, like puppies.

“Let’s go back to the sand pit,” said Dash, employing the Irish vernacular.
“Where?”
“The sand pit, where we first met,” he clarified romantically.

Miranda and I were enchanted.
“You wore blue,” I said.
“All those years ago,” she reminisced.

And they were off again in the autumn sunshine.

Stick police

Things that go through your head when your kids start playing with someone else’s kids at the playground:

Isn’t that nice, they’re all playing together.
My children are so well socialized, obviously.
They’re playing a nice game of tag.
Wait, where did that stick come from?
Oh, that’s okay, they all have sticks.
Wait now, that’s not a stick, that’s half a small tree.
Is the other parent here? He must be the man in the car. Where does he stand on the stick issue? Should I say something? Am I a helicopter parent if I wade in yelling “No sticks!” or am I a negligent parent if I don’t? Is he judging me?
Okay, they’re in teams. That’s nice.
No, wait, you can’t exclude the little one.
Uh oh. Here comes the little one to talk to her dad.

… 

Maybe I’ll just go have a word with them. Make sure they’re all playing nicely together.

“Hi! What’s your name?”
“Sarah, this is Mabel. Mabel’s four. Are you four? Is that your brother? He’s in second grade like Mabel’s brother? That’s nice. Now you can be friends. Be careful with the sticks. Maybe we should put the sticks down. Dash, how about playing tag with no sticks? Hmm? No, you don’t have to defend yourself. Well, yes, I can see that the other boys have sticks … Fine, just everyone play nicely, right?”

Well, that cleared everything right up.
Girls against boys?
No, but, the girls are four and the boys are seven or eight and that’s three against two… oh good, she wants to be on his team…but now it’s everyone against the little one again…
I should not be policing this.
But that father is sitting there in his car.
Judging me.

He wasn’t judging me. He looked out his car window and we had a nice conversation about how you should let the children just play, but that it’s always hard to know where another parent might draw a line that you don’t. And then I decided that playing dodgeball with sticks was probably a good moment to draw a line, and announced that it was time to go home.

Spidey Sense

Welcome to the September 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Safe
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***

One day during the summer, I took the kids to a playground in a part of town I hadn’t been to before. The venue had been suggested for a meetup with some other friends, but it was clear before I left the house that nobody else was likely to make it. Never mind, I thought, we’ll check out somewhere new. It’ll be an adventure, I said.

The route was straightforward and we were there in about fifteen minutes. There was plenty of space to park, a lovely new-looking pirate-ship shaped playground structure, clean bathrooms, and a river view. There were some other children at the playground and everyone had a good time for a while, until we got hungry.

We took our lunches over to the picnic tables. I noticed some people sitting at the tables were older men, smoking, not seeming to have anything to do with the children at the playground. Not to put too fine a point on it, they looked somewhat homeless. We sat at a further away table without making any avoidance too obvious – it was reasonable to want a clean table in the shade. My kids and I had a little discussion about smoking. Apparently they lead a sheltered existence, because they don’t see it very often so they always feel the need to comment, and then I have to agree that smoking is bad for you but that it’s often hard to stop once you’re in the habit, in case those people are listening and taking umbrage.

A group of summer-camp kids and their supervisors came along and started unpacking lunches at the tables beside us. This was obviously a perfectly safe area. But I was starting to feel a little uneasy, nevertheless.

A little further along the waterfront I could see another playground – one of those red and yellow plastic ones you can see for a long way. It looked cheerful and I suggested we check it out rather than going back to the pirate ship, since our friends were clearly not coming and the other children playing there seemed to have gone home. My son wanted to walk the fairly short distance, but I insisted on going back to get the car and driving down to the parking lot beside the other playground. I said it was because we had to put our lunch things back in the car anyway, but the truth, which I was still only half admitting to myself, was that I wanted to know I had a quick exit strategy, just in case the other playground turned out to be not so child-friendly.

I drove the scant quarter mile along the road, with the seven-year-old laying the blame for global warming squarely at my feet all the while. As we turned into the second parking lot, I took in a few details. The building beside the playground seemed to be derelict, but a young man was standing on the steps. Loitering, you might almost say. There was a truck with a worker loading or unloading something park-related and official around the side. As we approached the playground, I registered the following:

  1. The swings and slides were in some disrepair.
  2. There were no children to be seen.
  3. The only other cars in the parking lot were two parked beside each other with open doors and one person in each, conversing, or exchanging illegal substances for money, or something. 

Now, I’m not the most noticing of people, and I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but something about fact number three there just screamed “drug deal” to me. I swung all the way around the parking lot and smoothly back out again and announced that we were going home, actually. The four-year-old in the back (who had fed all her lunch to the geese) exploded with misery, and the seven-year-old wasn’t far behind. Being driven slowly past an enticing new playground and then whisked away was high on their list of atrocities, but I just didn’t feel comfortable and no amount of wailing was going to induce me to stay.

As we drove away and the indignant cries died down, as I – incidentally – missed the on-ramp I needed and started to get lost in an unfamiliar part of town that I was noticing looked more and more sketchy, I took the opportunity to explain to my kids the importance of listening to your Spidey Sense.

My invoking the webbed wonder made them stop and pay attention. Your Spidey Sense, I told them, lets you know when things aren’t right. Listen to it. If you feel uncomfortable in a place, or with a person, even if it’s a grown up who’s supposed to be in charge of you, that’s your Spidey Sense telling you to leave. Even if you can’t see anything wrong, if you know there’s no logical reason to feel that way, just go.

So I explained the things that had made me uncomfortable in that place – the possibly homeless men, the derelict building, the absence of other children at the unmaintained playground – and I told them that I felt it wasn’t a safe place for us to be, and that was why we’d left. (I didn’t mention the drug deal. It might have been a perfectly innocent job interview. Or something.) They listened, they took it in, and they stopped calling me the worst mother ever for leaving a set of swings unswung in.

Two children on a tyre swing at a playground
Not the playground in question

I haven’t read The Gift of Fear, but I know that listening to your Spidey Sense, or however the author may term it, is a vital message of the book. And, though I’ve been lucky enough never to have found myself in a situation I couldn’t get out of, the older I get, the more credit I give to my gut feelings. It’s never too early to teach your children to trust their instincts. It might just keep them safe.

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon September 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • Stranger Danger — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her approach to the topic of “strangers” and why she prefers to avoid that word, instead opting to help her 4-year-old understand what sorts of contact with adults is appropriate and whom to seek help from should she ever need it.
  • We are the FDA — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger makes the case that when it comes to food and drugs, parents are necessarily both their kids’ best proponent of healthy eating and defense against unsafe products.
  • You Can’t Baby Proof Mother Nature — Nicole Lauren at Mama Mermaid shares how she tackles the challenges of safety when teaching her toddler about the outdoors.
  • Bike Safety With Kids — Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs shares her tips for safe cycling with children in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • Watersustainablemum explains how she has used her love of canoeing to enable her children to be confident around water
  • Safety without baby proofing — Hannabert at Hannahandhorn talks about teaching safety rather than babyproofing.
  • Coming of Age: The Safety Net of Secure AttatchmentGentle Mama Moon reflects on her own experiences of entering young adulthood and in particular the risks that many young women/girls take as turbulent hormones coincide with insecurities and for some, loneliness — a deep longing for connection.
  • Mistakes You Might Be Makings With Car Seats — Car seats are complex, and Brittany at The Pistachio Project shares ways we might be using them improperly.
  • Could your child strangle on your window blinds? — One U.S. child a month strangles to death on a window blind cord — and it’s not always the obvious cords that are the danger. Lauren at Hobo Mama sends a strong message to get rid of corded blinds, and take steps to keep your children safe.
  • Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit) — Creating a safe, smoke-free home not only gives children a healthier childhood, it also helps them make healthier choices later in life, too. Dionna at Code Name: Mama (an ex-smoker herself) offers tips to parents struggling to quit smoking, and she’ll be happy to be a source of support for anyone who needs it.
  • Gradually Expanding Range — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook explains how she is increasing the area in which her child can walk alone, a little bit at a time.
  • Safety Sense and Self Confidence — Do you hover? Are you overprotective? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses trusting your child’s safety sense and how this helps your child develop self-confidence.
  • Staying Safe With Food Allergies and Intolerances — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is sharing how she taught her son about staying safe when it came to his food allergies.
  • Don’t Touch That Baby!Crunchy Con Mom offers her 3 best tips for preventing unwanted touching of your baby.
  • Playground Wrangling: Handling Two Toddlers Heading in Opposite Directions — Megan at the Boho Mama shares her experience with keeping two busy toddlers safe on the playground (AKA, the Zone of Death) while also keeping her sanity.
  • Letting Go of “No” and Taking Chances — Mommy at Playing for Peace tries to accept the bumps, bruises and tears that come from letting her active and curious one-year-old explore the world and take chances.
  • Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives tips on preventing choking in babies and toddlers along with Montessori-inspired tips for preventing choking in babies and toddlers who have older siblings working with small objects.
  • Keeping Our Children Safe: A Community and National Priority — September has many days and weeks dedicated to issues of safety; however, none stir the emotions as does Patriot Day which honors those slain the terrorist attacks. Along with honoring the victims, safety officals want parents to be ready in the event of another disaster whether caused by terrorists or nature. Here are their top tips from Mary at Mary-andering Creatively.
  • A Complete Family: Merging Pets and Offspring — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the ground rules that she laid out for herself, her big brown dog, and later her baby to ensure a happy, safe, and complete family.
  • Be Brave — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about helping her kids learn to be brave so that they can stay safe, even when she’s not around.
  • Catchy PhrasingMomma Jorje just shares one quick tip for helping kids learn about safety. She assures there are examples provided.
  • Know Your Kid — Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassfras refutes the idea that children are unpredictable.
  • Surprising car seat myths — Choosing a car seat is a big, important decision with lots of variables. But there are some ways to simplify it and make sure you have made the safest choice for your family. Megan at Mama Seeds shares how, plus some surprising myths that changed her approach to car seats completely!
  • I Never Tell My Kids To Be Careful — Kim is Raising Babes, Naturally, by staying present and avoiding the phrase “be careful!”

A cautionary tale

A woman pulls up her car by a deserted playground, gets out, and walks purposefully to the baby swings. She stands a rather nice drinking bottle carefully in one of the swings, turns around, gets back into her car, and drives away.

What would you think? What crazy drug-running scheme, what secret coded message, what clear-liquid time bomb was this?

Friends, I was that woman. Listen to my story so that you, one day, may avoid the puzzled glances of passing cyclists.

Yesterday Mabel and I went to get Dash from school, as usual. We passed a playground on the way, and waved at a fellow parent who was pushing her adorable baby girl in the swings. At school, Dash boinged out of the building to us, and we turned around smartly to go back whence we had come. As I turned, I noticed the daughter of the fellow parent still waiting, and assured her that we’d just seen her  mom and she’d be here any minute. Sure enough, a few yards further on I saw the mom pull into the parking lot.

Five minutes later we’re back at the playground, where we’d arranged to meet some friends. In one of the two baby swings, I spot a rather nice drinking bottle – the glass sort with a wide neck and rubberized stuff over it to make it grippy and less likely to break on impact. Pretty much this one, actually. (So, a $20 water bottle, give or take. Not the sort you want to leave behind.)

I thought it probably belonged to my friend the fellow parent, so I decided to take a chance and bring it home with me, so that I could give it to her the next day at school pickup rather than leaving it in the playground for some unscrupulous person to purloin. (You can see where this is going now, can’t you?)

Two hours later, when we got home – after leaving the playdate early because Mabel announced she needed the bathroom in a way that could not be decently taken care of behind a tree – never mind the fact that the city seems to have chopped down any trees big enough to go behind – or provide an iota of shade in the summer for that matter – near that playground – and then finding when we got back to our street that she’d rather play with the neighbour kids than do the poo after all – I Facebook messaged the other mother to let her know I had her drinking bottle.

Nope. I didn’t. I had someone else’s drinking bottle. Oops.

So, on the way to my board meeting last night I stopped by the playground to put the bottle back where I’d found it, hoping its owner would return again even if they’d already been by once and cursed the unscrupulous person who had taken their $20 water bottle. And I got some pretty curious glances from the cyclist who’d stopped to take in the view and was obviously wondering what on earth I could possibly be doing.

I wonder if it will still be there when we go past this afternoon.

Hat trick

I still have to tell you the story of the hat. I’m sure I’m supposed to have some sort of musing on the passing of the years and how you’re only as old as you feel and how children keep you young and how I feel like I look pretty damn old suddenly, since turning 36 or so, but I’ll skip that and tell you about the hat instead, because it’s more entertaining.

I had a hat. I got it at REI last summer, and it was great. Nice to look at (though I have to admit that the last time I looked at myself in a mirror while wearing it was probably the day I bought it; but I put a good ten-minutes consideration into it at the time), shade-providing, and eminently squishable – or “packable”, as I believe they like to say in Marketing.

Then suddenly, last Friday, I didn’t have a hat any more. Coincidentally, neither did Mabel. Mabel’s hat and mine were both missing. AWOL. Not on the sideboard or in the car or even folded up inside the stroller. I wondered if we could possibly have left them at the pool the Wednesday before. So on Friday afternoon we went to the pool and asked to see the lost property. Two tubs of assorted damp and mildewy discarded underwear and swimsuits were presented to us, and, miraculously, there was Mabel’s lovely new pink hat. Only slightly damp and not yet mildewed. The lifeguard was agog to see something leaving the box: he said before things had only ever gone into the box.

It was sad that my hat wasn’t there, and we spent the rest of the afternoon eyeing anyone in headgear with suspicion in case it would turn out they had stolen my hat. But Mabel’s was newer, so I was glad to have hers back at least. I thought it was silly that I had lost both hats at once, but that seemed more likely than the notion that I might have lost two hats in different places on the same day.

On Sunday morning I went straight to REI, hoping that the hats would be on sale. They weren’t. I bought the same hat again, for $38, because I had to, really. I can’t be without one, and it was a good hat. It wasn’t its fault that some bint had stolen it from the poolside.

Tra la laa, I had a new hat.

You can probably see where this is going.

On Wednesday we arrived at the playground for the regular Wednesday playgroup thingy. In the middle of the picnic table was a hat. I looked at it. I asked the woman sitting in front of it if it was hers. She said it was not. They commented that they had thought it might be mine, but I was wearing mine, so it clearly wasn’t.

“That’s my hat!”

My hat had been sitting on the picnic table in the playground for a week. There had been at least one torrential downpour in that time, not to mention all the people who would have passed by. And the summer camp kids who lunch there every weekday. It was unscathed and appeared untouched, though perhaps a little wobblier around the edges than usual.

I brought the new one back to REI this morning and the nice people gave me my money back. It’s like my birthday all over again.

Wednesdays

I may have mentioned our regular Wednesday lunchtime playgroup thingy before. It’s a community group of parents and caregivers who meet up with their kids at the playground if the weather’s good, or in a room in one of the community buildings if it’s bad. (We get the use of the room for free, as long as nobody else needs it, thanks to some long-ago donation of toys that we and other kids can use.) There’s a listserv and a Facebook page too, but the people who show up on Wednesdays are the really the core of the group.

The playdate officially starts at 11.00 and goes on till about 1pm or whenever the last people leave, though there’s a major influx just after 11.30, when the nursery school across the road lets out. We bring lunches of varying levels of healthiness, and the kids do what kids do, and we get to talk to other adults; and nobody minds if you have to leave the table mid-sentence to go and disentangle someone from the monkey bars or if your toddler steals all their toddler’s snacks. (Well, the toddlers might mind, but the parents are gracious.) Everyone keeps an eye on everyone else, and there’s an understanding that the general rules of engagement are the same for all the children.

On mornings like this, when Mabel ran away at least twice and was caught by someone else before I’d even figured out what was going on, I am more than grateful to my village. In return, I introduced a 22-month-old to my pineapple and later headed several two-year-olds off at the pass when they scrambled up the hill and in the general direction of the road.

Every year around this time I start looking at the group and thinking wistfully of the children who won’t be with us next year. As a new generation of babes-in-arms grow in to cruisers who can navigate the bottom of a slide or hog the baby swings like their brothers and sisters before them, and this season’s toddlers become next season’s fully-fledged playground consumers, those who are turning five before September are not long for this world. Next year they’ll be gone to the land known as Kindergarden, where the days are long and lunch is always indoors. If they don’t have younger siblings to carry the flag, their parents are gone from our group too, to that mysterious world of PTA meetings and recess and homework where we can’t follow until our time comes.

Next year I’ll be straddling both dimensions, still attending our Wednesday get-togethers, but with only Mabel, who as a three year old, will be right in the middle of the steps-of-stairs of kids (except when she’s heading the escape posse). And Monkey will have graduated.

Spring Busy

Spring Break snuck up on me this week, as these things always do, and it was Saturday or so before the twin facts that all the toddler classes are taking a break and Monkey has no school all week impinged on my brain and I understood that I would be responsible for directing operations for both children all day every day without so much as a gymborama or a music time to distract us. Never mind having to do the grocery shopping and go to the post office and things like that with not one but two in tow.

On Monday morning I got the shopping over with early, and it didn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped (child B runs away, totally, to another aisle; child A delightedly chases her, feeling all righteous and justified about it; I prevaricate halfway along the cereals straining to hear which end I should be aiming the giant truck-trolley for; they both appear in front of the milk fridges at the top end, where Monkey appears to be practising his cop moves with a most impressive wrestle-her-to-her-knees maneuver; I hope everyone understands it’s all in good fun, and go to restrain the perpetrator in the seats up front, only to discover that this, the supermarket’s most-coveted Blue Car, has no functioning straps so I can’t keep her anywhere, and the shopping’s only half done… anyway, I was a bit frazzled by the end of all that), but we managed to meet up with friends at a slightly different playground from usual and the rest of the morning went well enough.

The afternoon, mind you, was a moderate disaster, since it turns out that the only thing more stressful than getting the kids out of the house in the after-nap period is not managing to get them out at all. There was some dismantling of the sofa, some pulling out of the phone wires, some fighting over stuff, some dumping water out of the bath, some dumping the towels into the bath… it was tedious. I needed some wine.

Tuesday morning was much better: the stars aligned to give me a cloudy morning and no children with colds, and I took them swimming. Monkey got an early birthday present of scuba goggles (he wanted ones that covered his nose as well) and they were so excited they got themselves dressed in record time. We presented ourselves and our sadly under-used membership cards at the reception desk, where Mabel announced “We’re going to go swimming!” to the nice lady, who was impressed. Mabel then went on to tell her all about how the doctor cuts the umbilical cord when a baby is born (we’d been talking about such things in the car, as you do) but luckily the nice lady didn’t understand a word of that. They bobbled around me in the shallow pool for almost an hour, and afterwards Monkey was still talking about how this was the best day ever. Clearly, I should take them swimming just exactly this often, to engender such enthusiasm every time.

On Wednesday we managed a trip to Target without significant loss or injury, and our usual playground date for lunch, and the weather was so hot we had to break out the shorts and t-shirts. In the afternoon we went to a nearby playground-with-sandbox where a reasonable amount of fun was had, though I did have to go and explain to the father of the sobbing three-year-old that my two-year-old had just stomped all over her sand castles. Never my favourite moment.

Now it’s Thursday and I think I’m getting the hang of this, a little. The weather is more seasonal again, so this morning was a different playground and this afternoon will be a quick shopping trip followed by more playground. Tomorrow it’s going to rain, but we have muffins and an indoor playdate on the cards for the morning. By the weekend I’ll be knee-deep in birthday baking, so at this stage I just have to make sure that I’ve got all the eggs and the cocoa and the chocolate chips, and Easter will just have to look after itself.

Bunnies

I know I’m not the only mother who sometimes feels like she gave birth to the Duracell bunny. (That’s the Engergizer bunny in America. For some reason, even though Duracell batteries exist here too, the bunny – still pink, still banging a drum – belongs to Energizer. I don’t explain these things, I just tell you about them. Anyway.) There’s Mabel tonight, after a mere 20-minute nap from which she coughed herself awake, to my dismay – dismay much more at my lost naptime than her coughing – lying in bed the very picture of giggly awakitude, all kick-a-little, talk-a-little, and when I say I have to leave, the howls of anguish and clutching hands and promises of eye-closing force me to stay a little longer, though I know that really she needs a bit of a cry to reset her system and let her relax. Eventually I leave the room, she wails, “Mummy’s not here” piteously for 30 seconds, I go in and try again, and she was lying still in my arms, mostly asleep, within a minute. Of course, it took me another ten to extricate myself from that situation. Thus:

I sit up and start to move away.
Mabel’s eyelids flutter open: “Where are you going?” Curious, not accusing.
“Nowhere. Just … moving over.” I adjust my trajectory and lie down on the other side of her.
Two minutes later I slide myself off the bed. She looks up, betrayed, but a little sleepier.
I lean on the bed and stroke her hair. “I’m here.” Making no promises about staying, mind.
Two more minutes, and I can stand up and tiptoe away. Lucky I’m not wearing my creaky leather belt tonight, or I might still be there.

I had both children with me, at times directly on top of me, all day today, apart from those blessed 20 minutes wherin I started to make my lunch, started to bake some apple bread, started to put on the kettle for a cup of tea, and (all right) probably started to check Facebook again. Monkey had woken up with a suspicously goopy and pink eye, so I had to keep him home. Pinkeye, as I have mentioned before, is not the sort of illness you can hope to fly under the radar with. I did take them both to the supermarket for milk (vital) and applesauce (I suddenly got a hankering for the aforementioned bread), but he was under strict instructions not to touch anything.

What’s more, he had woken up at 5am, but luckily that falls beyond my purview as I was sleeping with Mabel. I opened one eye when I heard his stage whisper to B down the hall, thought how strange it was that it was still pitch dark, and went back to sleep. When Mabel and I emerged in daylight, at 7.30, I was congratulating myself on finally getting up “on time” for the first time this post-time-change week. I looked at B and asked if Monkey had woken up in the middle of the night. “We’ve been up since five,” he said, both weary and longsuffering.

So I’m tired now, because spending all day with two overtired children does that to you. We had a nice trip to the playground, where they mostly spurned the slides and swings in favour of a waterlogged hole in a tree stump that could be satisfyingly filled with soil and other goodies, and stirred around with sticks. They cooperated excellently on this project, though the end result was somewhat up for debate:

“It’s a potion to stop the criminals from stealing Mummy’s money. And Daddy’s money. And yours and mine, if we had any,” announced Monkey to Mabel.
“It’s for the babies,” replied Mabel, decisively, adding more fruits and vegetables.
“Not vegetables. Gregetables.” She likes to subvert your expectations.

Then I took them home and dumped them in the bath. And thence, after some manner of dinner, to bed. Which brings you up to date. The end.

Splashback

Playgrounds aren’t much good when they’re wet, but last weekend we ended up in a wet playground anyway. We had gone to a local park for some fresh air and because B wanted to locate a hard-to-find geocache near the baseball diamond. I decided that faced with the option of Mabel running around on wet metal bleachers above asphalt or playing on a wet playground with nice soft mulch under her, I’d go with the latter. She ended up with sopping wet trouser-bottoms and front-of-coat, but that was better than concussion. We were headed straight home anyway.

She stopped where the water had collected at the bottom of a slide and started to scoop wood chips off the ground and drop them in. It gave me a total flashback to her brother at the same age, who would happily spend twenty minutes – or as long as I could stand it – in just-above-freezing weather at our local slides plopping wood chunks (I think they bought the cheap stuff; heavy on the wood, not so much with the chip) into the puddle on the slide and then sloshing the water around with a stick. His sleeve and most of his front would be soaked with icy water, but he didn’t care.

I happened upon a little video of him at 2 or so, singing Insy Winsy Spider and accompanying himself on his cooling-rack guitar (okay, I’m probably the only person who could have told you what the song was, and in hindsight I only knew because of the title of the clip). But where did that funny, happy, chubby, irrational toddler go? How can he be almost five – a proper kid with pointy elbows and knees and a whole complex life of his own just starting to open up and take him where I can’t follow?

Mabel monologued as follows the other day: “Next year I’ll be three and I’ll go to school and you’ll ask me what I did at school and I’ll say I don’t remember.” (She knows, because that’s what her big brother does.) One of these days Mabel won’t be my funny happy sweet toddler either. I’ll be sad when I look at the photos – but just imagine the amazing, complicated, challenging girl she’s going to turn into.

It’s a bit of a scary thought, actually, so I think I’ll just stay here with the manic teething toddler for now, if you don’t mind.

Coda

Mabel likes words. She likes long words, and compound words, and synonyms, and sometimes she just likes to use words even when she’s not quite sure what they mean.

In the playground opposite the library there’s a metal bouncy turtle thingy. You can sit on it and bounce. More interestingly to most of the children, it has a hole at the front and a hole at the back, enabling you to feed it sticks, and make it poop them out at the other end.

This afternoon we took advantage of the milder weather and stopped by the playground on our way home from the supermarket. After some climbing and some swinging and some sliding, Monkey was feeding the turtle while Mabel crouched at his other end like a consciencious proctologist and poked around his nether regions with a twig.

“I’m just making the poo come out,” she told me. “With my epilogue.”