Somehow, despite the fact that I’m far to busy to get sick, I seem to have contracted the flu (or something very fluish). It’s passing quickly and isn’t all that bad compared to, say, the flu I picked up in China that time, but on Friday, I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed for most of the day. We didn’t have school. We had to cancel Destination Imagination (which is rotten because we desperately need the practice time before the tournament this coming weekend). And what a tragedy because Friday’s temperature got into the 70’s. That’s the sort of February weather that must be seized upon and appreciated.
Well, luckily, we live on a block with a small playground on our corner. It’s a bit of an urban mess, honestly. There’s a contingent of homeless guys who hang out there on the benches and play checkers and cards on the tables. They’re mostly harmless and some of them are even nice, but it doesn’t always make it the most clean or conducive atmosphere for play. We use it occasionally, but if we really want to go to the park, we’ll walk somewhere else or drive to one of the larger city parks. This playground is scarcely larger than a house plot. It’s only there because it used to be the turnaround stop for the trolley car and when the trolley shut down in the 1950’s, the city took it over and had to do something with it.
Despite the issues, the husband and I agreed quite awhile ago that when they were six years old, they could start going to the playground by themselves. As this was one of the first nice days since the fall and I couldn’t take them to a better playground, I reminded them that they were now allowed to go alone, as long as they stayed together and told me first. I explained that if anything strange happened to make them feel uncomfortable, such as a fight among the homeless guys or an adult acting strange toward them, that they should come home immediately. I don’t think they would be in danger at all, but I do know that sometimes sketchy things happen there and that the kids should know to come home rather than stay and feel uncomfortable.
They had turned down the offer to go alone in the fall, but they seized it now excitedly and immediately ran down the block to the playground. Half an hour later, they came back. A toddler who, “didn’t know the difference between two and three,” had been bugging them. But after getting a snack, they almost immediately ran back again and stayed for another half hour on their own. This time, apparently another toddler, a little girl, “asked us too many questions!” Still, after using the bathroom, they went back for a third time, again staying for about half an hour before some mysterious internal clock told them they should check in with me.
It’s funny to be that they felt so put upon at the playground, but each time by smaller kids getting on their nerves. Clearly, a pesky toddler is the biggest problem you could face at the playground, even one in the “inner city.” We try to live our lives as relatively “free range” parents and the kids have had a number of exciting solo experiences, including a few short hikes with friends in the woods and the ability to go do their own shopping while I’m in a store doing mine. Sometimes, when they meet a somewhat big milestone like this one, going off completely on their own, it’s a little bittersweet for me as a parent. The genie is out of the bottle and we’ll never be able to tell them that they can’t run down the block on their own again. But I’m proud of them for seizing their freedom (not to mention the precious warm February weather) with confidence and nonchalance, as if it was no big deal.