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Breaking New (Play) Ground

Maddie and I have ventured into new territory – the neighborhood playground.

We’ve had several days over the past week or so with incredibly heavy rain, and one morning after a particularly heavy overnight storm I decided it was the perfect time to take a crack at the swing set.

I should point out that Madeleine’s mere weeks away from her first birthday, and we’ve never gone to the playground.  We daily walk past the park and see mommies and daddies clustered around the swings and slides, chatting away, with babies younger than Maddie.  But showing up at the playground the first time is sort of like jumping into a double-dutch jumprope game; you kind of sway with it for a bit, looking for an opening and hoping your feet don’t get tangled up.


And the time of year’s given us a bit of pause, as well. By the time Madeleine seemed old enough to hang out with other kids we were well into winter, and then the spring came wet and cool, and then she hasn’t yet started walking, and so on and so on.

A couple of days ago, though, I decided to be bold and just jump in. Summer’s coming up and I’ll have a toddler (!!) on hand who’ll need a place to run and other kids to socialize with. I gotta start planning ahead, making my move. And I’ll shamefully confess I picked this particular day precisely because it had rained so heavily the night before; I was sure the wet swings would be deserted and there’d be no “been-there-done-that” mommies to witness my first clumsy attempts to get Madeleine into a swing, to smile behind their hands as she began wailing in fear or contempt at my bumblings. Madeleine and I could brave the space together, alone, and unobserved.

I packed a towel for wiping down the swing (smart mommy! I patted myself on the back) and we headed out. The park was, indeed, deserted and we had the swings to ourselves – no waiting in a stroller line whose etiquette I haven’t yet figured out. Madeleine seemed dwarfed by the seat so I bunched the towel up behind her to keep from sliding around, and she was off.

What can I say? She loved it. Which made me feel horrible for keeping it from her for so long up until now.

image038.jpgThe wind in her hair, the sun on her back, Mommy’s face rushing up to her every 60 seconds – what’s not to like? Madeleine screamed with delight the whole time. We went back on the weekend with Daddy and even ventured onto the slide: again, a big hit. This kid is born to be outdoors, and I can tell we’ll be living at the park come summer.

Taking a stab at the swing set has given us the added bonus of breathing new life back into our stationary swing at home. It’s been gathering dust in the corner while I refuse to put it away; after all, it’s a seat with a safety strap and can be used to corral Maddie in a pinch if I need to run out to the car or something. But since she’s been to the park she’s kind of figured out what it’s about and is happily swinging in it again. You can tell by the faraway look in her eyes that she’s imagining that cool breeze blowing once more through her locks.

We ventured back today in spite of the more crowded park and I feel pretty confident that I fooled everyone there into thinking I knew what I was doing. I got Madeleine in and out of her stroller like a pro, I carefully parked her wheels where I noticed everyone else did, and even chatted with other mommies while I pushed Maddie. She cackled continuously again, and demanded the slide a good half dozen times. And she had the added bonus of her favorite pastime: Baby Watching. Madeleine waved and chatted and hallooed every baby in a twenty-foot radius while I watched, both a bit embarrassed and proud at the same time. I can tell she’ll take to summer in the park like a duck to water.

Mommy, however, will continue to study the unspoken etiquette until I get it down pat. Don’t want to make waves in the kiddie pool.


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