NOSTALGIA FOR THE PRESENT
My parents never played with me. That wasn’t a thing when I was growing up.
If I was lucky, my mom would pull out a board game on winter nights when the farm was quiet and needed less attention. We would play Sorry! while my dad watched TV and dozed on the couch. That was the extent of his parental involvement.
Play was what you had school and friends for. That’s why God made the great outdoors, so children could run free like animals and leave adults alone. The playground was solely inhabited by children.
That’s why it hits me hard when I see a parent, and especially a dad, playing with his kid at the park.
The problem is that now, today, my mind insists on casting a shadow on the simple act of a lone parent playing with their child.
On weekends, walking the paths through the park with my dog, I see men accompanying a child or children towards the swings and I think, “Visitation.”
And I’m probably right.
The single dads at the park, the single dads at McDonald’s. It’s their weekend to see the kids. And at a loss for bonding activities, they head for the playground or the closest fast food place.
My parents didn’t need to play with me because they were always there. Now parks have become an ancillary member of the modern family.
Of course, the other dark truth is that children can no longer go to the playground alone. Not today. Not now.
There are four softball fields in the park where I walk, and in the summer they are always in use. Day, night, weekends, holidays. The minivans start pulling out of the parking lot at 9:00 p.m. and I’m just glad it’s not me.
I don’t remember being as agile or energetic or full of pure, exuberant life as these kids are, but maybe I was.
My favorite thing is to eavesdrop on the families trickling away from the fields as the games end and cries of “Mom! Mom!! MOM!!!” fill…