Playground Days: Reason #99 Not to Wear Mascara

 EntertainingMom as an EntertainingBaby, Circa 1968 in Manhattan
(Not sure playground safety existed back then. Look at that swing!)

This morning as we were driving to school we passed the charming playground hidden behind the baseball diamond, behind the pond with the ducks, the geese and the swans. The playground, that in the summertime, is sheltered from the hot sun by the green canopy of the surrounding oak trees. No matter how hot the summer day, this playground is always cool with gentle breezes that quietly shake the leaves above.

When my older two were little we practically lived at this playground. If it was too hot for the beach, or too late to drive to there for fear that little children would take their afternoon naps too late in the day, we would walk over to our playground. (Naps and their timing are crucial to any new, young mother's well-being and mental state!)

Our playground was walking distance from home. The children would either ride in their double joggers or in their red Radio Flyer wagons as we mothers tugged them along. We came armed with snacks, drinks, more snacks, sand toys and change of clothing. When the children got older we would let them ride their bikes and push their little strollers which would be filled with balls, dolls and jump-ropes.

The playground was an easy place to be. There was so much for the children to do. They played with new friends and old ones. On a lucky day the ice cream truck would make an appearance. We had plenty of diapers and bottles for the babies to last, it seemed, a week. So there was never any reason or need to have to rush home. After all, we enjoyed our play dates too!

We would call our husbands, tell them to change out of their work clothes, into shorts and to bring the beer, the wine and some glasses. We'd be having pizza for dinner at the park. Again!

I look back fondly at the long, never-ending days and realize that as exhausting as they were, they were good days that are now but snapshots in the photo albums of our memories. It's nice to be able to go back. My older two are so big now, by comparison. Their playground days are over and as a result my littlest one hasn't had his fair share of them.

So here I sit in this very familiar playground and look around. Everything is the same as it was nearly 10 years ago. The swings, slides, climbing structures, sand boxes, the pond and the stream are exactly as they were. The people are different yet very much the same. The little girls run around in their sundresses with bows in their hair. They hold hands as they skip along. The boys in shorts and T-shirts are covered in dirt and sand.

A group of mothers is gathered at a picnic bench, much like we did all those years ago. Some young mothers push their push their children on the swings, another stands guard at the bottom of a steep slide waiting for her little one to come flying down into her arms. One tends to a newborn. In the background I can hear the birds singing and the chains from the swings squeaking. I can hear laughter, squeals of delight and the cries of a child who DOES NOT. WANT. TO. GO HOME!

I know what they are all going through and I know the long road ahead. I could tell all but I don't. I sit back and watch. Children really are all very much alike. Mothers are too, I suppose. They all want a break. They all need a break. They're excited for their children to go to preschool in the fall. Just a couple of hours a day a few days a week. These mothers all say how much they'll do. Those few hours will make all the difference. But these mothers will learn that there is still not enough time. Then the following year the children will be in school longer still. Now, these mothers say, they will finally have the time that they need. But they don't. And before they know it their babies will be in Kindergarten and then they, like me, will wonder what happened to the good old days and get a little melancholy. Like me, they will regret all the complaining and wishing the time away. Maybe some of these mothers would return like I have with a much younger child and feel an overwhelming desire to turn back the hands of time -- just for a while -- as they do the best that they can to hold back the tears because they hadn't anticipated going to the playground when they got dressed and decide to wear make up that morning.