Our neighborhood has an awesome concert series, where everyone takes a picnic dinner and we hear everything from classical guitar to a silly brass band. In days past (and fewer children), we have take gourmet spreads that would’ve wowed Martha Stewart. These days, every picnic dinner get simpler. Tonight we had sandwiches, chopped up melon, over cooked asparagus and dip, popcorn and burnt cookies. None of us cared! It felt so good to sit on the picnic blanket with our kids, munching while we listened to simple melodies on a beautiful night.
When our older two were the Littles, they used to wander around to all of the other picnicking families, and would sit down with whoever had the best looking dinner. We spent our evenings chasing after them and bringing them back to our veggies and dip, when all they wanted were goldfish and apple juice! They’d smile at everyone, and no one could resist them. They got their goldfish! They would dance freely anywhere they wanted, and were astounded by everything from the music itself to the puppy on the next blanket.
Tonight, Griff flirted with Manny while she fed him a sandwich. Lilou was ecstatic to get as much popcorn as she wanted, and Tess snuggled with Dave. Remy simply listened and ate everything. The minute the music ended, the kids jumped up and headed for the playground. For the first time, we let them head over on their own. Don’t worry! We haven’t lost our minds. We could see the playground from where we were packing up our things, and could get to them within 30 seconds if somebody got hurt. They know this park well, and it was full of young families and grandparents – so we gave them a tiny taste of freedom. They did us proud and used it well, watching out for their brothers and sisters as they walked through the crowd.
By the time we got there a few minutes later, Lilou had already talked a big kid into pushing her on the swing. Manny was helping Griff go down the big slide, and Tess and Remy we were playing with kids older than them. I was the shyest kid in every group, and took a book everywhere I went. Their confidence in meeting other kids takes my breath away. I’m so proud of them when I see it, and hope it sticks around.
It was an evening of bumps and bruises. We met a great family whose kids were playing with ours when one of them smashed his mouth against a playground pole. We happened to have a bunch of ice and napkins, which we brought over. Other kids ended up with scraped knees and a twisted ankle on top of that, and we provided ice to everybody. It’s certainly a great way to start a conversation! Joking aside though, we had a great time chatting with these parents and watching our kids conquer the playground crowd.
Tess’s report card commented on how she really jumps in to play with anyone, and doesn’t pick favorites. Her smile gets so big when there’s older girls nearby for her to buddy up to, and she’s still the first to check on somebody if they get hurt. Remy loves the spinning things, and got schooled by an older girl on sharing. (He figured it out.) And the littles just ran everywhere, thrilled to be up so late.
When your kids are little and super social, just plan on meeting everyone. Whether they waltz up and demand conversation with some adult you’ve never seen before, or whether you eventually give up and approach the parents of the kid your child has decided is their new best friend, you’re going to socialize as much on the playground as they do. You can fight it, and regret not bringing a book like you did in grade school; or you can embrace it, and take your tired old self out to make some new friends on a Monday night.