Small Things: In Defense of the Dodge Field Sandbox

“Being a parent is dirty and scary and beautiful and hard and miraculous and exhausting and thankless and joyful and frustrating all at once. It’s everything.” (Confessions of a Scary Mommy, Gallery Books 2012).

I’m writing this from the floor outside gymnastics class at the YMCA. My daughter just had a major meltdown headed into class and I desperately wanted to throw my own tantrum over hers. Can you feel me on this Monday? We were coming off the best morning too. Isn’t that always the way?

This morning we went to Shoprite and I let her use the little cart. It’s never my favorite thing but it’s always her magic moment of the day. And as she crammed her tiny cart into my ankles for the tenth time I recognized that sometimes the things I get frustrated about or anxious over are the very same things that bring her immense joy. Welcome to the humbling part of parenthood, which is surrendering or adjusting exceptions and enjoying the experience.

One of my favorite gripes and her gain is the sandbox at Dodge Field. To begin, I don’t really mind the sandbox. I know many people do mind the stains, inability to distract from heaps of wet sand, and meltdowns over the one shovel and seven kids scene. I mostly gripe because sister squabbles go to a whole new level in the sandbox. And when I write new level I mean it’s a savage scenario. The last time at the sandbox I said, on repeat, “you can’t hit your sister with that dump truck.”

But these annoyances are temporary. Really, it’s all small things. I’d love to claim perfection but that doesn’t work since I share it all here and everywhere. There’s just something about these messy mommy moments that gut me. Do I love losing skin off my heel because she struggles to steer that Shoprite cart? Nope. But I love her big smile, tiny voice, and big girl sass when she helps checkout. Is it fun to play referee in the sandbox? Not really. But again, I love how there are times of silence in the sandbox as they unearth treasure, like a second shovel, and watching them dig with their hands without worry.

I think there’s something to be said about my need to control. It serves me well in some arenas, but as a mom I know the most fun and the best memories to date have come from letting loose, partaking in play, and looking to children for reminders of everything that is right in the world.

So the next time you’re at Dodge, dig in deeper. There’s more some lessons to be learned in that sandbox. The very first for me has been just this: surrender.