Welcome to the club
On our first warm and sunny day of spring, I practically had to drag Kendall out of the house to the playground.
She was too busy building castles with her magnetic blocks (called Picasso Tiles. They. Are. Amazing.) to put forth the effort of putting socks and shoes on and actually going outside.
I begged for a few hours. After a dark and dreary winter, I desperately wanted to feel the sun warm against my skin.
I finally brought her the socks and shoes and put them on myself while she continued to play.
As soon as we arrived at the playground, Kendall shouted with glee and ran toward the swings. I helped her into the baby swing and placed Hayden in the baby swing alongside it.
I pushed them both as the cool breeze blew my hair across my face. The sun was warm, and the breeze just right.
Kendall made sure I watched her practicing her leg pumping. She can use the regular “big girl” swings, but not without someone close in case she loses her balance and falls off.
For now, we stick to the baby swings.
Hayden sat like a sack of potatoes, holding on to the rubber edge of the swing, blinking against the breeze that ruffled his blond hair. He sat silently, but content. It was the first time he had ever gently rocked in a swing before, and for about 40 minutes, he really enjoyed it.
Kendall ran up the steps and down the two-story twisty slide. She ran around with our neighbor’s grandson. She sat on the ground and made rock castles using her hands. Then, she came back over to Hayden and I at the swing.
She flung herself onto the “big kid” swing, keeping her belly on the rubber seat while her arms and legs dangled. She swung back and forth a couple of times before planting her feet and standing up.
The seat flew back, continuing its motion and smacked Kendall in the mouth.
Immediately, she stepped toward me, crying. She was sucking on her lips and covering her mouth with her hand.
“Mom! It hurts!” she cried.
I moved her hand away and was shocked to see red around her mouth, down her chin. Kendall is not a fan of blood, so I told her to lick her lips. I ran to the stroller and grabbed Hayden’s soft Wubby-a little tag blanket with the face of a monkey and returned to my kids at the swings.
I wiped away the blood with the blanket and it was then that I saw the cut in her lower lip. I told Kendall we could go home and put ice on her face, but she said it didn’t hurt badly and wanted to keep playing.
A little while later, Hayden was showing signs of hunger so we started to walk home. Kendall was walking behind me as I pushed her baby brother in the stroller.
For some reason, she decided to start running and came between the stroller and my legs. I almost fell over, and Kendall, tangled in my legs, went down hard onto the sidewalk.
She started to cry and screamed, “My knee! My knee!”
I rolled her leggings up and, sure enough, the skin on her knee was mangled and she had started to bleed. She held her palms up to my face, and they too had been scraped raw.
I picked her up and carried her, sobbing, the block home while still, although clumsily, pushing the stroller.
I felt horrible. I had forced her to go outside to play, and now she was crying, bleeding and all cut up.
At home, I sat her on the bathroom counter and washed the dirt off her hands, cleaning her cuts. I tended to her knee wounds as she held the bag of ice to her lip, tears still streaming down her face. Hayden crawled to my feet, whimpering, asking to be fed.
It was at this moment my dad came home and couldn’t help but laugh at our tableau.
“Tough day?” he asked.
I told him how Kendall had hurt herself.
“Scraped up knee? She looks like you when you first learned to ride a bike,” he said, jogging my memory, before exiting the bathroom.
I picked Hayden up and began to breast-feed him.
“That’s right! I scraped both of my knees when I first learned how to ride a bike.”
My dad had taken my training wheels off of my bike, one sunny spring day, and was holding me steady as I practiced up and down the sidewalk. I clearly recall voicing my opinion that I was not ready for this next step.
On one pass, without telling me, he let go.
I lost my balance, veered to the right and ran straight into a tree.
My bike and I bounced off the trunk and I flew off the bike, scraping up both my hands and knees on the cement. I remember how painful and difficult it was to walk up the stairs afterwards.
I carefully pulled my pant leg up and showed my daughter the scar on my knee.
Scraped knees are a right of passage — initiation into the outdoor play club. New applicants are always accepted come spring.
“See? Now we both belong to the club.”
And with that, she became the newest satisfied member of the club and her crying stopped.
Andra Kucerak Guccione is a Jefferson resident.