Chicago spring is in full effect and charging right in to summer – now is the time to get out and enjoy the local parks. At the end of last summer and through fall, Sweetie and I took many walks around the park nearest to our house. So far this spring we had also stopped in at the organic greenhouse to check that out. But we had not explored the playground areas, not tried out the swings. I decided it was time to step up our park trips to the next level. No more solitary walks, it was time for park meet-ups. Meet-ups meant that Sweetie would have a chance to play in a new environment and I would have a chance for conversation.
Role call for the main family that we “meet up” with is Big Daddy B, Momma Z and their daughter Linda. We met these friends in music class at the beginning of the year. Among their fellow 6-12 month olds, Sweetie and Linda demonstrated superior musicality and quickly rose to the top of the class. We watched the girls interact well together, sharing toys and instruments. Big Daddy, Momma Z and I talked after class a few times and figured out that we lived a short distance from one another. And we worked out that Linda is about two weeks older than Sweetie. With so many things aligning we decided to get together outside of class.
Our first meet-up was at a park just down the road from us, in their neighborhood. This park is nice for the girls. There are swings and slides and small obstacles for smaller kids and larger equipment for the older ones. There is plenty of space so I don’t spend the whole time worrying about some rogue 5-year-old blasting into my daughter. They installed cushy rubber flooring everywhere so it is comfortable for crawling (our park is all wood chips). Sweetie definitely enjoys the swings but prefers cruising around the grounds while Linda enjoys the rhythm of the swings. Perfect – no fighting over playground equipment with these two.
Watching the girls at play got me thinking about first friends. My parents lived next door to the couple that birthed Captain Jack (see Gratitude for a bit more). Through their connection he and I became first friends. The 37 year ebb and flow of that friendship is an interesting slice of life. We moved out of the neighborhood when I was 1, but the families stayed in touch. We would see each other a couple of times a year, definitely around the holidays. Ten years later when we were in the fourth grade, he moved to my neighborhood. Over these years there were times when we were not the best of friends but thankfully we were never enemies. Historically, when we met up with one another we picked right back up where we left off. Since I moved back to Chicago five years ago we have enjoyed a great reconnection. We’ve seen each other get married and buy houses and grow careers – and he is totally into Sweetie. And once again we live right down the street from one another.
So maybe this is what Sweetie and Linda are growing. Obviously no one can predict the future, and kids are all over the place so you don’t really know what’s next. Wife and I aren’t really the types to force a friendship, and Big Daddy and Momma Z don’t seem like the type either. But so far the girls play great together and it is neat to watch them think of the potential. And technically speaking, whatever direction their relationship goes, they are still first friends.
All the gushy friendship stuff aside, these meet-ups are a great chance to get out of the house and interact with other parents. Grown up conversation is refreshing. I imagine many of you are like me and you speak to your child all day long. Sweetie listens attentively and sometimes responds, but it’s really a 12 hour monologue. So it’s nice to shift to a give-and-take conversation for a couple of hours. There is also the idea sharing and note comparing. Talking with Big Daddy and Momma Z has been a chance to talk through feeding routines and sleep habits and most recently, teething. And sharing our stories empowers us to support each other as parents. Overall it’s just been good to meet and get to know these guys. We share many interests and they have some great stories as well. It’s also a nice reminder to Wife and me that there are, in fact, other people outside our home.
So park meet ups are a winner and we are big fans. I appreciate the grown up conversation and the chance to interact with other parents. Sweetie loves getting out, the change of scenery and new places to play. She has some nice new sod in the backyard and some fun toys, but not swings! I know she benefits from the playground socialization and the introduction to those life lessons she won’t necessarily learn from Wife and I. And she has made her first friend.