Monday, July 13, 2009

Growing Up in the Park on a Friday

Wendy helps Carl hold the worm and the pole, and touches the fish before he releases it back into the reservoir. She explains to me, “Daddy is catching the big BIG fish when they bite the worms, and they live in the water under the duckalings.” She understands his interests, and respects his prowess as a talented sportsman. He knew it would be this way, and tries not to explode with pride as he holds her small hand under his.

We take a walk to the "slide and the troll bridge" and let him have some solitude. She climbs on the rocks lining the path, placing her rainbow sandals carefully as she stretches her long legs from foothold to foothold. I am grateful for the giant, firmly planted feet particular to the women of my family.

Pacing laps around the playground equipment, I glance in the direction of the moms chatting at the picnic table. They are wearing curiously matched blue sport-polo shirts and black shorts. (I know they arrived separately. Is there a league? A league of park moms? Is Friday blue polo day?) Their perky-playful ponytailed heads turn casually toward the children, but remain unconcerned with the velocity at which the small bodies travel over the high structures. I look down at my hands. They are nervously hovering behind Wendy as she clomps up the stairs. They stay, twitching half-mast around my chest, ready to catch her should she for no reason fling herself through the gap in the railing.

Oh god. Am I the paranoid overbearing mom? The brims of matching blue baseball hats bob at me. Yes, they say; you will spoon-feed her every drop of life until she doesn’t know how to feed herself. She will be afraid to drive alone or dance in front of people or go to gay bars or try Indian food. She is going to move back in with you after college and settle for a middle-management retail job because you never let her go down the slide by herself.

No. This is Wendy we are talking about. I’m two and I dress my own self Wendy. I can squirt my own toothpaste Wendy. Wendy who will shake the chocolate milk myself OH FOR GOD’S SAKE. I am not smothering her. I couldn’t possibly. She is very independent, but she’s not even three yet, you crazy matching meddlers. She does need me to hold her hand, whether she wants me to or not.

Still. I back away, my feet shuffling through the wood chips a few steps at a time. Wendy heads toward the ladder, and I hurry forward, but do not make it before she has scaled the rungs and is running across the wobbly-bridge. Oh. She can do that.

I perch myself on the sideline bench. I watch her strong hands climbing, I listen to her telling the other kids stories, and I slowly ease back. I let my toes relax from clenched-ballet pose to flat and chill. I can do this. I’ll just wait here, until she needs me again.

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