: a piece of land used for and usually equipped with facilities for recreation especially by children
This morning I drove past a playground where a mother was pushing her young daughter in a swing. The sight of it made me smile and simultaneously made me realize that I am well past that stage of life. I have fond memories of bringing my daughters to this playground. Of packing snacks for them and a book for me. Of knocking on the door of the church to see if I could bring potty-training B inside to use the restroom. Of sitting at the picnic table while they played. Of pushing them in the swings.
I have these memories and am thankful for them, yet I am not sad. Instead, I am glad. I feel perhaps a hint of sadness, a whiff of nostalgia when I think of my daughters who were once too small to pump their arms and pull their swing into motion. But I am glad to see them emerging from the chrysalis of childhood into their almost adult selves. I am delighted to share books with them, to share meals with them, to have meaningful conversations.
I do not miss cutting their food into small pieces to avoid choking hazards. I don't miss lugging around equipment for a night away. I don't long for the days when I could pick out exactly what clothes they would wear. (At any rate, such days were incredibly short-lived in a home with three opinionated daughters.) Instead I get to enjoy talking to them about our meal plan for the week and soliciting their thoughts or having them pack their own suitcases for a weekend trip or seeing what outfit they will assemble today.
Yet this phase of parenting does elicit at least one emotion other than gladness: fear. I am afraid of pushing too hard - or, more likely for me, of not pushing hard enough. I am afraid of saying the wrong thing - or of saying nothing when I should speak up. That stage of parenting toddlers is fairly straightforward - keep them safe, teach them manners, feed them well. This current stage? Far less clear, with minefields at every turn.
If this morning made me think about the stage of parenting that has passed me by, lunch had me thinking about the years to come. There, I met my spiritual director's children who are nearly my age. After she introduced me, she told me what good children they are. My first thought was that I hope the same will be said of my children two decades from now. Will my daughters enjoy each other's company and come into town to celebrate a special day for me?
Only time will tell, but today's realization that my playground days are over has me hyper-aware that when people tell you "it goes so fast," they aren't kidding. My daughters will have gone from half-grown to adulthood in no time at all. As I navigate this next stage of parenthood, I hope I'll let the gladness of seeing them grow outpace the fear that it is all going by in the blink of an eye.