Andrea Mara

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Doing a U-turn on the Playground

I’m doing a u-turn on playgrounds. Like, not literally driving into one in a car – if you’ve seen my driving, you’ll know that would be even worse than it already sounds. More of a figurative u-turn – something I realised this afternoon when I was sitting in the playground with the kids.

A few years ago, I wrote a post about playgrounds and all the things I found challenging – figuring out the etiquette, queuing for ages for the swing then realising you’re in the wrong spot, handling it when your toddler hits another child, or a bigger kid is mean to yours. The weather. Not having anyone to talk to. Spending the entire time trying to mind your children and stopping them from falling but without overdoing the hovering. Begging them to come home. And again, the weather.

At the time, lots of people told me they also found playgrounds big on challenge and small on fun. Lots of lucky people don’t mind them at all. One woman on another Facebook page got cross, because she said I should be taking my kids to playgrounds. That was the point though – I did take them to playgrounds, all the time, despite finding it a bit of a chore. And I continued to do so throughout the years, and I did so again today.

Except it was lovely, and I remembered that I don’t mind the playground at all anymore. Playgrounds haven’t changed, and I haven’t changed, but my kids have. We have reached the light at the end of the tunnel – they can swing and slide and run without me, they (mostly) come when they’re called, and they are neither hitters nor hittees. I can sit on the sideline with my coffee, and they come over and back to say hi. My eldest isn’t always interested in swinging and sliding and running anymore, so she often sits with me to chat, like she did today. And it was calm and lovely and really quite perfect.

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A bit like lots of other things that were tough when they were small – restaurants, shops, car journeys, or just leaving the house to do anything at all – playgrounds are easier now. So if you’re still in the midst of it all – if you still have two under four, or three under five, and almost everything is hard, know that it does come good and it does get easier.

And I’ve just realised that in another few years, none of them will want to go near a swing or a slide, and I’ll wish I’d made more of it. So this is my promise to stop moaning and start embracing – though I’m still only going to the ones that have coffee.

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