The sun was shining, they’d finished lunch, and they needed some fresh air. I had no more excuses. Time to hit the playground. They wanted to go to the one nearest our house – the one where there’s cool stuff but it’s always freezing cold and there’s no decent coffee nearby.
“What about Cabinteely Park instead?” I said. They weren’t for turning. But I persevered. Gorgeous views, lots of green open space, and better coffee – I wasn’t giving up.
“You know how we usually get ice-cream the first time we go each year? Well, this would be our first trip this year…” I hinted. It worked. I didn’t feel guilty. If I’m going to spend an hour in the freezing cold, chasing, minding, catching, running; we’re going to do it in the nice playground.
I’ve never loved going to the playground, and I don’t think it makes me a bad parent – we go there A LOT, in spite of my antipathy. My kids have no idea that I don’t like it – that’s how good I am at faking.
But there’s a lot of minding required – especially for my youngest, who wanders off, gets lost, climbs high, skips queues, goes up the slide the wrong way, and wreaks a little bit of havoc everywhere we go. Minding all three of them is hard, especially when they go in three different directions. And then there’s the diplomacy side – the turn taking, the queue jumping, the occasional shove from a bigger child. But hey, as parents, we know they need air and exercise and they enjoy the park, so off we go.
Everyone got into the car more quickly than usual, and I packed nothing, because I guess we’re finally past the stage of needing to bring things with us. Once we got there, the three of them ran ahead down the path, which was fine, because there are no cars, and they’re old enough to know to wait for me before going into the playground. Inside, the three of them headed straight for the zip wire. Which was great, because all three can use it without help now – the four-year-old having mastered it during our final visit last summer. After that, the girls headed off to explore, and I stuck with the small boy. Sometimes he wanted help – walking on a wobbly log or climbing up on a swinging tyre, and other times he didn’t need me at all, like when he spent twenty minutes in the sandpit. I sat on the grass, my face up to the sun, feeling its early spring warmth, and thinking actually, this isn’t so bad.
On Easter Monday, we went into the city centre celebrations, and it took a while to get our bearings. Yesterday, it was quite the opposite – familiar territory, jumping straight in. Though perhaps it was new territory for me – a realisation that kids get older, and trips that were hard become less hard, and playgrounds that were challenging become more manageable. And when the sun is shining; even enjoyable.
Especially when the coffee is good and the ice-cream is great. I’m sticking to my guns on that one – all playgrounds are not created equal.