Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gotta Get to the Playground

As the weather cools and my children get antsy indoors, we spend more and more time at the playground. It’s usually a pressure-cooker effect—I have things to do around the house and the morning starts out OK, but as the day draws on, the kitchen table gets coated with its third layer of grime, the screams grow louder, bodies fly off the walls, the veins in my legs start throbbing and aching, and suddenly, the steam bursts forth and I bellow out to the universe, “Let’s go to the PLAYGROUND!”

The atmosphere suddenly quiet and purposeful, the girls scurry like little oompa-loompas to put on their crocs, the one-year-old chanting incessantly, “Heya? Heya? Heya? Heya?...” (“Let’s go? Let’s go? Let’s go?”)

Because the trip to the playground is as much a treat for me as for them, we are always in search of playgrounds on lakes or in forests, places where I can close my eyes, take off my shoes, stretch my feet out on the grass, and feel the breeze on my face. I ignore pleas to push swings or help climb or hold hands (“if it’s for big kids, then try something else!”). I try not to feel self-conscious when other mothers shadow their children, sometimes older than my own, and cheer for them at every ladder and slide. I need this time for myself, to be a better mother and a better person.

My kids come up to me after 20 minutes, bored or hungry. I pull out some rice cakes or apple slices and tell them, “Go, do something, run, throw leaves in the lake, this is Umee’s time.” Sometimes they sit beside me, but I close my eyes in meditative silence and do not respond to questions or whining.

In that peaceful hour, I reflect. I don’t call anyone on my cell phone. I recite some Quran, remember Allah, contemplate, read a light book, plan out my week, and think about my personal development. Disconnected from computers and telephones and dirty sinks, listening to the children play and the leaves rustling, I thank Allah for my life. For my children. For being able to sit out here in nature and remember Him.

Before we leave, I get up to help the kids on the swings. They giggle and laugh and throw their heads back in drunken delight. Now, refreshed, I can share their exuberance and be in the moment, watching their reactions and loving it. After the playground, my head is clearer, our home is calmer, and the steam is gone.

Of course, a great end to the day is when two oompa-loompas fall asleep on the ride home.

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