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Do We Ever Leave The Playground?

I'm at the playground again. I have fleeting memories of being at the playground as a child - all metal and hard edges - swings, seesaw, slide - vying for my turn, being pushed, pushing, crying to my mommy, trying to play with kids that didn't want to play with me...You get the picture. Many of you have been there yourself.

Spin the clock forward a quarter of a century. I'm back at the playground. It's a nicer playground - wood structures, rubber mats, safer, prettier. I'm a young mom and I've got an infant and a four year old little boy. I now have two focuses of interest and attention - my child and how he's doing out here - and my peers and how I'm doing out here. I see my son casing the joint, figuring where he wants to go, where he feels a bit uneasy, who he will join, who he'll stay clear of. It isn't really about the equipment. It's about the social interactions. I could probably have learned a lot more then than I did about how my four year old was fairing in the give and take of playing with others. Looking back, I'm sure the way he played then, the way all the kids played then, foretold so much about their social interactions as adults. But back then, I wasn't only concerned about my child's social interactions, I was also concerned about my own. There were other moms there, often the same moms. I knew them from play groups, from seeing them year after year at the playground, bumping into them in the supermarket, at the drug store.There were moms I considered "playground friends." There were moms who were part of cliques that I stayed clear of. There were the "solo moms" who seemed intent on being "solo." (Now I realize they were probably just too shy or afraid of rejection and took the safe road). I liked a few of the moms enough to want to move our friendship beyond the playground but it never happened. That is, I never took the first step and neither did they. There were also the moms I intentionally kept as playground friends because I got glimpses of how they interacted with their kids. A spanking, a lack of attention, too much attention. Different philosophies of child rearing.  Life at the playground. A microcosm of life.

Spin the clock forward forty years and here I am again. A grandma with a four year old granddaughter, a four month old grandson. And a daughter who's now the mom, now the one who is involved in this very same microcosm. I see her chatting with some of the moms, nodding to some others who are alone, a quick stop by moms who are grouped together before she moves off. I hear one of the groups talking about haircuts, diet, holiday plans. They seem to know each other well. They seem more than playground friends. It's still the same. The equipment is different, even better, more creative. But it has nothing to do with what's at the playground. It's all about who is at the playground. And the who's haven't changed. Life hasn't changed in certain basic ways.

I am still the child at the playground, the young mom at the playground, the grandma at the playground. The main difference is I see it more clearly now. I understand it better. I would have liked to be clearer when I was younger. But clarity can sometimes take a long time. So better late...

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