To my preschool mom friends from the park:
I miss you. Or rather, I really miss us, and those long, golden afternoons at the park.
I think I speak for all of us when I confess that we used to be slightly envious of those moms who had to leave the park and go pick up their kids from big kid school. We thought, they have places to go, activities to do, and don’t have to fill their afternoons with long hours at the park.
Life has a funny way of proving us wrong, don’t you think?
Looking back now, I love how we had a standing date every afternoon to meet up at the neighborhood park, our little patch of green. Just from looking at the park, you could tell that it was a hub of activity; forgotten blankets and shoes lay on the picnic tables, while discarded cozy coupes and scooters were scattered everywhere, left there by parents who hoped to give the toys a second life.
Some afternoons, all of us would be there, while other days it was just two of us visiting while we pushed our kids on the swings. One of us would bring a box of juice boxes, and another would bring a big bag of animal crackers. It was never organized ahead of time, it was just one of those things that we knew would be helpful, so we did it.
Our gaggle of kids would play hide-and-seek or make a train and slide down the twirly slide, and we’d all wave when they demanded "LOOK MOM." When one of our kids needed a push on the swings or some help on the monkey bars, one of us would instinctively jump in and help out. In that way, we moved seamlessly together throughout the park, helping kids, as our conversation flowed.
And we talked about everything. We whispered to each other: I’m pregnant, but I’m only 6 weeks so I’m not telling anyone yet. Except, of course, each other. We worried together about how the transition to big-kid school would be. We vented about how the kids might never sleep (yes, I still do this). We caught up on the latest celebrity gossip, and where everyone was headed on vacation.
We didn’t realize it then, but we also had the luxury of not censoring our conversation from our kids, because they were still too young and busy to listen. No one had to rush off to carpool, and no one had anywhere they had to be except right there, entertaining our kids and visiting with each other.
We were there for each other, both physically and as a support system, in a way that I have not yet replicated since my kids have gone off to big-kid school. We were intimately in tune with each other's struggles and victories, both the big ones and the small ones. And so, during those years, we carried each other through the best and worst of things. We celebrated new pregnancies and babies. We ate cupcakes doused in sprinkles as we celebrated toddlers’ birthdays. We also hugged each other hard when we experienced unimaginable losses, like infant loss or the death of a parent. I appreciated that you could just look at me and you knew it wasn’t a very good day. On those days, you always made it a point to ask, are you ok?, in a way that was so genuine and kind that I was completely disarmed. I didn’t have to say anything except yes, thanks, and you knew that I was tired and counting down the hours until my husband came home.
I miss how unhurried we were. I miss how we had nowhere else to be except right there, for each other. I miss those days. I miss us.
These days, we see each other on the road as we’re ferrying kids home from school or to dance and swim. You see me in my big kid-hauling bus (literally) and you always flash a smile and a wave. Sometimes I wonder where you’re headed or how your day was. I wonder what the latest is with your husband’s crazy home improvement project. I wonder how that trip with your extended family went. I wonder if you’re going to go ahead and try for one more baby. I wonder if you’re really doing ok, or whether you’re having a hard time.
Occasionally, we visit briefly when we drop the kids off at school, but the timing has to be exactly right, and sometimes our younger kids don’t have the patience to sit in their carseats while we chat away. And while our group texts are always fun and lively, they don’t compare to unhurried face-to-face conversations we used to have at the park.
Before I run to carpool, I should tell you one last thing: sometimes when I’m driving my kids home, I purposely take the route that goes right by our park. And when I do, I see them: a new crop of moms of little kids, talking and pushing their kids on the swings, or sitting on the park benches talking. It always makes me smile and think of you.
Did you know I'm on Facebook? Roussel Six Pack. Did you have golden afternoons at the park with your mom friends? Feel free to share and tag your friends, too.