Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reasons: No More Late-Afternoon Playground Trips

There are so many reasons why we’re moving to the suburbs. As the weeks and months go on with our search and eventual move, I thought I would document these reasons in a series of posts called Reasons. I’ll start tonight, after a particularly grueling late-afternoon playground trip.

Going to the playground in the morning is great. Lucia is energetic and excited; Greta sleeps; there are snacks to eat, lunch to have, friends to run into. We almost always go to the playground in the morning, unless we have music class or are getting together with friends. Of course, now that the weather is nicer, every single nanny and mom in Park Slope also goes to the playground, and it is just ridiculously crowded. For two mornings in a row we failed to snag a swing even after an hour or two, unwilling as we were to wait in the swing line. (The line for the swings will, perhaps, be its own Reasons post.) But I digress. Crowded or not, it’s still generally fun.

The late afternoon is another story. The dead-man’s zone of our day is that post-naptime stretch from three o’clock or so until dinner, Olivia viewing, and Andrew’s arrival home. Those three hours can seem to last forever, and that’s when Lucia’s pent-up energy can swiftly turn from giggly fun to hellion. So on nice days, I try to hustle us outside around four or four-thirty so Greta can take her late-afternoon nap in the Bjorn or the stroller and Lucia can work off some energy. Lucia is usually glad to go outside. And, in theory, I’m glad to be outside too. I just fervently wish we could be outside but NOT go to the playground. This is after-school time, and the public school adjacent to the playground releases its middle schoolers and all hell breaks loose. Combine the insanity of these older kids with the hordes of nannies and moms descending on the playground with their own post-nap toddlers, and it is just…awful. Screaming. Running. Scooters, balls, bikes. Big kids stampeding over the playground equipment, oblivious to new walkers and timid little ones.

Nevertheless, Lucia generally enjoys herself, unless the craziness is at such a level that she just stands off to the side, gazing on suspiciously. I can’t even in good conscience encourage her to venture out—I wouldn’t want to, either. I still don’t, at thirty-five. But having Lucia have fun at the playground at this time of day is a double-edged sword, and on most days our fun afternoon outing concludes with Lucia screaming bloody murder as I haul her home under my arm. I know immediately when I’m really in for it. “I want to stay at the playground,” she’ll announce when I say it’s time to go home. Today she ran underneath the slide and declared, “I stay right here.”

She refuses to walk. She drops to a crouch. If I get her through the gate, she’ll walk with me a few paces then turn and sprint back into the playground. Carrying Lucia home would not be a big deal if she were my only child. But I have Greta either in the Bjorn or in the stroller, so when I finally lose it, I have to basically loop my arm under her armpits and haul her away. It’s awful. It’s awful when she sits in the middle of the sidewalk and won’t budge; it’s awful when she turns and sprints away; it’s awful when I have to drag her. It’s awful when we have to walk down 5th Avenue with her screaming and sobbing. I walk past the same people working in their shops two or more times a day; there are many witnesses to the many ways we can return home from the playground. At least it’s Park Slope and it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll pass at least one other toddler melting down—in this neighborhood, no one’s looking at me disparagingly, that’s for sure.

Anyhoo. At times like this, I know that one of my Reasons for wanting to move is to eliminate this late-afternoon melee. With a porch and a backyard, we can still get outside after naptime—but there won’t be any more walks home like this. We’ll already BE home. Glorious. A reason to move, indeed.

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