Day in the Life: Going to the Park
The weather in northern California has finally shifted from several months of (much needed) rain to days and weeks of consecutive sunshine. Because of this, my wife and I started taking Terra (she's now almost two-and-a-half years old!) to more outdoor spaces where she can run around and generally enjoy life until she wore herself out.
Enter Dracena Quarry Park, a small, surprisingly secluded green space just to the east of Oakland. Despite the park being, in my opinion, very accessible and close to major urban areas, I've only seen it truly packed with children and families once, and that was for a birthday party hosted there. Otherwise, the park normally has a handful of families with their kiddos there at any given time, even on the nicest of days.
For Terra, that isn't the reason she loves it so much, though I'm sure not having to wait in a line to jump on a swing or go down the slide helps.
On this particular Saturday, the clouds were free of clouds, the wind carried a comfortable breeze, and the temperature was just right. Terra knew where we were the moment the car pulled into a parking spot down the hill from the playground.
Mom asked her, "Are you ready to play?"
Terra's response as I unbuckled her from the car seat: "I want to go on the swing!"
She didn't wait up for us. In a matter of moments she closed the gap between the car and the first section of the playground: a large sandpit and a set of swings. Despite her initial proclamation for using the swings first, she changed course and jumped into the sandpit, ensuring that her sneakers filled with sand just minutes after our arrival. Her vision shifted as she noticed a few plastic shovels half-buried in the soft, fine sand.
"My shovel," she stated as absolute fact.
We always try to correct her regarding the concept of ownership, but at this point in her life, the world might as well be hers.
Mom gladly assisted Terra with collecting the shovels while I found an empty bench to slip Terra's travel bag onto. Once I got to Terra and Mom, they had already started dredging a moat around what would become a sand castle. As Mom continued digging, Terra took off, skipping away to find whatever she could to make her future castle distinctly hers. Today, sticks of all kinds would bring her dreams to reality.
"Daddy, help," she said as she grabbed my finger. I already knew what she wanted.
"Okay, let's find some sticks," I responded, to which she smiled and started digging in the sand for anything that poked out from underneath. I took the easier route and went to the sidewalk just beyond the sandpit where lots of broken branches rested along the edges, picked up a few at a time, and exclaimed "Terra, look what I found!"
Instead of getting a smile, she had already shifted into her "I'm a builder now" zone, her eye brows scrunched together as she surveyed what I found before taking it away. No "thank you" or "yay" - just silence as she hummed to herself, her hands gripping some sticks. At this point, Mom and I, too, shift gears, as we allowed Terra to build her castle as she saw fit, with our input being mere recommendations that she would either accept or reject. Of course, we would assist in planting some sticks, just to make sure they could actually stand up on their own. Sometime's one of us would ask her where the front door was, or whether other people would be allowed in, or where a flag should be placed.
I find that as long as she believes an idea was hers to begin with, we would be able to help out with her goals without her stopping us mid-way and exclaiming, "No! I'll do it!"
But like many forms of entertainment for her at this age, building a sprawling sand castle was fleeting. Eventually she dropped her shovels and ran to the next attraction: the slide. Not just any slide - a slide made entirely of concrete. Both Mom and I were wary about sliding down this ourselves, but Terra loved it. "Running" up the stairs (more like taking fast steps, one at a time, up the stairs), she'd grab the monkey bar that was at the foot of the slides, get in position, and push herself down.
At this point, it's worth pointing out that her laughter is highly infectious and makes our day. Every time.
After a few trips down the slide, coaxing me to join her on at least two of them (my pants hate me for that kind of abuse), she finally reaches what she wanted since we arrived: the swings.
Not the baby swings that are bowl-shaped with holes for the legs - the big kid swings.
"Help me get on," she said as she held one of the chains that kept the swing suspended.
"Push, daddy," she said once she was on and, as instructed, kept her hands firmly around the chains on each side of her.
After that, I gladly got behind and sent her into the air! Again, more laughter, with the occasional "Higher!" thrown in to make Mom a bit nervous whenever I agreed to Terra's request.
"Don't push too hard," I am reminded by Mom.
I usually think that if it were up to Terra, she'd be on the swing for the entire day. Eventually, Terra would either ask to come off the swing, at which point everything you just read would repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
Next thing you know, we've been at the park for almost three or four hours.
That's how you burn through a Saturday afternoon!