Pro tip #1: Don't eat right by a pond if you don't want your kids venturing too close the entire meal, giving you approximately 47 heart attacks thinking they might fall in.
Pro Tip #3: Bring more water. A lot more water.
Anyway, we finished our very stressful picnic and walk around the ponds, and headed to the garden section of the park to see what was in bloom. There was an awesome gazebo that the kids zoomed straight for, immediately beginning a game of chasing each other up the ramp, down the steps, around the gazebo, giggling all the while. Two little boys from another family joined in, shrieking with glee as they all joined in one endless game that is the favorite of toddlers everywhere: running aimlessly in circles.
Meanwhile, their parents' faces showed a different emotion...
"Don't run so fast!"
"HOLD ON TO THE RAILING when you go down the steps!"
"Wait your turn! Don't push!"
"Shh! Not so loud!"
The stress on their faces was almost overwhelming. Couldn't they see what joy their little boys took in this impromptu game of giggling, shrieking, aimless pleasure? Maybe somebody would get hurt, but really... Bruises fade. Scraped knees are a badge of childhood. Tears dry up in no time.
I wanted to say something - I've been there. I was just there 10 minutes before, yelling at my kids to stay farther away from the pond, to walk on the path, not to step on that rock, not to throw things in the water...
Sometimes you need to let go of the rules, let go of expectations of cookie cutter behavior in public, and just let them be wild and unbridled and joyful. Sometimes you need to find joy in their joy and not worry about what the passersby might be thinking about your bustling brood of uncaged monkeys.
I tried to exchange that universal parenting look with those parents, but was only met with exasperated sighs and more admonishments directed towards their children (and perhaps geared towards mine as well, but I was perfectly happy to let them run to their hearts' content). I wish I could have told them what I need to keep telling myself: To find joy in the joy of others and not to worry!
Of course, my words of wisdom might have lost their effect as our 4-year-old took a tumble down the stairs and reopened a scab on her knee, forcing an immediate exit from the park with blood streaming down her leg... But until that moment? The joy was tangible.
Linking up with Blessed is She for this week's prompt, as I let the kids make a huge mess of sidewalk chalk in the back yard because hey, joy!