What do playgrounds say about us?

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One of my earliest school memories involves biting the dust while climbing an oversized metal spider in the middle of our playground. Morning dew and my mother’s shoe selection were equally to blame.

But I didn’t give up on the challenge. And, by the end of that week, I conquered the source of my fleeting Kindergarten shame.

It would be decades before I would see equipment that resembled that delightful spider I once cursed. Last week, in fact, I took our kids to a park with a similarly aged steel insect and a rusted merry-go-round. As you may have guessed, both still inspire squeals of joy…and caution.

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5 Keys to Work-Life Balance (Mom Edition)

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Last fall the walls were about to cave in. Really. In many ways, my world was coming apart.

If you’re a mother, you know exactly what I mean:

  • Exhaustion: Check
  • Countless meals out: Check
  • Irritability: Check
  • An inability to do ANYTHING well: Check

Truly, you can only hold on like this for so long. When last semester ended, I did what any sane teacher mom would do. I disconnected.

No social media pressure. No play date merry-go-round. No books about parenting. And no cheap, meaningless conversation.

In short, I returned to all the little things that I had forgotten along the busy motherhood way. And, in this, I focused on a work-life reset.

So what is the “secret” that helped me pull through?

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There Is No Finish Line

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Few things liberate the soul quite like a good run. For myself, four miles is the “Zen zone” – the magical point at which surroundings fade and stress melts. And this is how I was enticed to run my first half-marathon. Only 9 more miles, right?

I prepared myself as any athlete might. Morning and evening stretches. Ice after long runs. And caffeinated GU – the chocolate variety.

But, come race day, the obstacles weren’t at all what I expected. Amazingly, I paced one minute faster than my training (8:13) for the entire race. When the finish line finally entered my sights, less than half of a mile stood between my sneakers and victory.

In the last few miles, a strange thought struck me. I hadn’t seen another female runner in a while. But this was a public race, and it was 2011.

And, just like that, I hit my second wind and felt the release to sprint.

Only I didn’t expect what came next. I was tripped. I was pushed. I was cursed. It seemed that every man I attempted to pass in that final stretch demanded I take the path of increased resistance.

Was it jealousy? Perhaps.

Was it anger? In some instances.

Was it sexism? This one still lingers.

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The Ugly Years

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Just before I graduated high school, I got this amazing idea: chop off all of your hair (think Mandy Moore c. 2003). Ashamedly, I did not have Locks of Love in mind. No, I was entirely selfish.

I wanted a new start.

You see, hair has always been my calling card. I have never dyed or treated my hair and somehow – by the blessing of God – I maintained golden locks for the first three decades of my life.

My mother’s experience, however, would foreshadow my own: blonde until babies. And, right on time, I gradually lost my sun-kissed signature hair in the years following childbirth.

But it was impossible for me to predict the other changes that were simultaneously emerging – the widening hips, the spider veins, and the wrinkles.

The ugly years, without my consent, had arrived.

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A Portrait of Imperfection

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There is an unwritten rule in parenthood: Crisis doesn’t occur until Picture Day. Really. Ask any parent and they will tell you a story. This year, it seems, we could not escape the curse.

“Now don’t worry, but I want you to be aware…”

I dread when my husband prefaces a story involving our children in this way.

But before I could reply, I spotted it: a pink mountain of flesh had filled the entire space between my daughter’s eyes.

And this is how a mosquito sabotaged our little girl’s first school photo.

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