A Playground We'd Never Been To

They ran toward the slides in sets of two, giggling, hair blowing back. Finally, some kids had arrived at the playground. Peony had been playing there for nearly an hour, and was starting to get angry that I was nursing the baby when she wanted me to push her on the swing. In turn, I was getting more and more flustered. And annoyed.

As the sound of laughter and ideas started to float from every corner of the playground, and my daughter busied herself with trying to attract their attention instead of mine, I scanned the area for adults. All I saw was one woman. She chatted calmly with the oldest girl, then joked around with the littlest one. She seemed so calm. She seemed....happy. But I was trying to reconcile the fact that the children looked kind of similar to one another with the idea that there was just one adult. "Wait a minute," I said to her, awkwardly putting it together. "Are these all yours?" It seemed like they filled up the park. Before she could answer, the littlest one piped up, "We have one more!" The mom started to nod. "You have..." I started to count children, but lost track. "Seven," said the mom. "Wow," I said. "I don't know how you do that. I don't know how I do it with two!"

"Oh, no," she said. "When I had two, I was totally overwhelmed." She then gestured to the children--this required a broad sweep--and continued, "...but then as I had them I learned to just....let go."

I can't emphasize these last two words enough. The way she said them, it was like she just exhaled them. The words beamed toward my body instead of traveling in soundwaves like words usually do. They crept in through my skin. Yes. Let go.

I mean, I went home, wanting seven children so I could learn to let go. On my jog the next day, I thought, how can I learn to let go and just have two?

I want another baby right now, but we'll probably stop at two. The woman with seven children told me that her third pregnancy was twins, which is my husband's prediction, and that after having twins, one baby seems like nothing. Visions of a house full of bunk beds danced in my mind. "What kind of car can they all get into?" asked my little girl. "A three-day car?" Her words for  - 'a lot.' I laughed. They'd left on foot! Then again, so did we.

There's something magical about that many children. "Siblings are for life," chime the chorus of those in my life who support having more. But there's something magical about already having the perfect family, too.


Putting it together

The words on the sidewalk were upside down and sideways and scrawled with white chalk, already days old and eroding under the many feet at friends and family weekend, but still, at a glance, the words made us both laugh. The students at my beloved alma mater, bursting with a passion that sometimes surfaces as totally irrelevant, had written "Fuck Columbus" in honor of the recent holiday. I'm not one to lie to kids (Fig 1: Ongoing struggle over what to say about S. Claus, resulting in inept mumbling whenever she asks) but when our 3-year-old asked me to tell her what the words said, I said, "Welcome students!"

It was one, maybe two beats, as we walked away, on to the next thing - and then her sweet baby voice, still saying 'R' sounds as 'W,' piped up:  "But dere's no 'B' in 'wacome' or 'students,' Mama." Dang, we got ourselves a smart one. She must have looked at all the letters in Fuck Columbus sideways for maybe 4 or 5 full seconds. She continued explaining the reasoning behind her confusion, citing the F as another wild card in my explanation, until I realized the jig was up and cut her off - "You got me. The words said something rude and I didn't want to tell you what they say, so I made something up. Sorry, cutie - I still can't tell you!"

When she was 2, I read her a poem about Santa Claus, demurely shrugging when she asked if he was "weal or pwetend" and then hiding my face in my hands when she demanded to know the mechanics behind the flying reindeer in the sky. She pwetends all the time ("Did you know dere's a cheetah behind dat fence?"), but she still loves to read "Jet Plane: How It Works." What can I say?

"I can wead some words, Mama," she says now. "I'm leawning."