Paradox

Snow on lilac blooms
Snowflakes on lilac buds

Melting on the green back of the sandbox

Sunshine shower

Birds chirping, snow falling

Springtime in New England

spring snow

My daughter wanted to set up the sandbox today.  She’s been asking to hang the birdhouses outside for a month now.  She and her older sister roller skated in the sand lining the edge of the road.  She finally gave up when it started snowing.  It’s springtime now, but the scene outside the window doesn’t look like it.

With an early release from school, I declared it a day to run around the backyard like nuts.  My three year-old was the only one with me.  I don’t waannnnnna go outside, said the eight year-old.  Can I have a snack first, asked the five year-old.  Belly full, she’s the one that hatched all those vernal equinox-inspired plans.  She has a very real sense of injustice.  When she awoke the first day of winter and saw no snow on the ground, she was pissed.  And now?  No Easter decorations up even though there’s snow on the ground?  What’s up, Mom?basket of snow

The snow today actually had my back, though.  The first flakes floated to the ground mere minutes after her latest protestation about an empty sandbox.  One good thing about a schizophrenic mood change on Mother Nature’s part.  And one that I should be able to appreciate given my latest post!

There really should be nothing bizarre about snow showers two days into spring, though.  Just because the calendar says it’s spring, doesn’t mean that we should wake up one morning to instantly green grass and gardens abloom.  Two days ago it was winter.  Two days ago snow was de rigeur.  The passing of seasons is a gradual progression.  Leave it to humans to expect instant results.  Leave it to us to restrict the moving of the days in tiny boxes on a calendar and expect the weather to follow suit.

It was bizarre, though, to hear the symphony of birds gearing up for spring as the snow fell.  They were a twitter with nest-building, bug-hunting, flit-flying from tree to tree.  They seemingly paid no mind to the fat, wet flakes flying around them.  Maybe I should take a page from their book – rejoicing in the expectation of spring, knowing it’s coming, instead of lamenting the fact that it’s not here yet.  There is beauty amidst the cold and dark.  And there is the promise of warmth and light at the other end of it.

A Big Sarcastic Thank You

To you who draw obscene pictures of target areas of your anatomy

To the teenage delinquents who practice the spelling of choice four-letter words

To the future pyromaniacs of America who melted a pothole into the slide

To the underage drinkers who left a bottle a few swigs short of empty by the jungle gym

 

I thank you

For enhancing my child’s playground experience

 

I thank you for questions like

What is that?

Why did mean people ruin the playground?

Why do people drink beer here?

 

I applaud your ingenuity at finding ways to feed your obviously repressed artistic talent,

your scientific aplomb at experimenting to find the exact temperature at which plastic melts,

your courage in fighting acceptable social norms for public drinking and congregation.

 

But, please, take your Miller someplace else and find some other way to live ‘the high life’ – and leave the playground to the kids.

 

Shut the Front Door

I now know why my grandmother used to shoo her children outside – and lock the door. Her kids, of course, would object.  According to family lore, my two aunts would hover on the landing of their third-floor apartment waiting for her to let them back in.  My father, the only boy, would wander outside to find his friends.  In any event, it didn’t seem that any amount of begging or pleading would alter my grandmother’s decision or when she deemed it acceptable to return home.

I always appreciated this story and found it quite humorous (my grandmother had that certain amount of pluck that allowed her to get away with it), but now I can fully relate.

Last Tuesday was gorgeous; the last day in January, yet feeling more like a fine day in spring.  When I was able to bring my scraps to the compost bin in my shirtsleeves and not freeze, I went back in for the recyclables and lingered outside for a moment.  Angela abandoned the last of her lunch and joined me.  Encouraged by the weather, we began a joint effort to rid the yard of broken-off branches from winter windstorms.  A few minutes later, Julia, who had heretofore been deeply involved in a serious reenactment of Cars 2 in miniature, wandered out as well.

I tidied twigs.  Julia decided to play school.  Angela followed along.  If I had planned an afternoon outside, it couldn’t have gone any better.  The thing was, I hadn’t planned an afternoon outside.  Angela’s naptime was in ten minutes.  That meant Julia’s quiet time in ten minutes.  And Mommy’s chance for ‘me’ time.

“Ok, a few more minutes and then we’re going in,” I warned.  To which both girls objected, of course.

After wrestling Angela inside and into a new diaper while Julia bopped alongside the changing table telling me her plans for playtime, I realized resistance was futile.  If they were so invested in playing outside, maybe that was my best chance at uninterrupted work time.  This is why assumptions are so dangerous.

With the girls safely ensconced in the fenced backyard, I stationed myself by the window that looked directly onto their play area with my papers.  Maybe five minutes passed before I heard the first plaintive call by the door.  Once that issue was resolved, another five minutes passed before I heard the squeak of the screen door.  Then the stomp of feet.  The desperate plea for some indoor toy that was absolutely essential for their play outside.  Then a cry.  Another squeak.  A snack.

I could feel my blood pressure going up with each interruption.

“In or out,” I bellowed.

For kids who not so long ago were completely invested in playing outside, their actions were certainly not showing it.  Then Big Sister got home from school and a third set of feet beat a path back and forth.

“My God,” I thought.  “Now I know where Grandma got her motivation.”

Any mother knows it’s easier to get things done when there are no children under foot.  Unfortunately, society and culture have changed just enough that it’s no longer acceptable to boot our kids out the door for the day and welcome them home for dinner.  It’s no longer safe for our kids to play unsupervised in the open areas around our homes.  It’s no longer acceptable or expected for them to fill their own time with their own imaginings; we’re supposed to do it for them.

Not only does this culture shift take accountability and creativity away from our children, it makes the job of a mother a hell of a lot harder.

Now, please understand me, I’m not advocating for mothers across the world to lock their children out of the house.  It just seems to me that while the tension and tenderness between mothers and children is the same as in previous generations, the expected goals and duties of mothers have swelled with no subtractions from our job descriptions.

Kind of makes one want to lock the door and hide.  But, like my grandmother, I will always open my door to my children and welcome them in with open arms – even if I let them sit on the landing for a little while first.

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