Too Old for Playgrounds


Our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, have the same one-word answer each time I plead with them to stop growing up. In unison, they always reply, “No.”

Like most other children, our Girly Girls are in a rush to “grow up.” Unfortunately (or fortunately), they’re oblivious to what that really means. Growing up means they must leave some once beloved things behind to make room for other, more important things in their lives.

Since they were born, we’ve made the short trip to our local playpark three to four times each week. Depending on the weather, we’d ride the golf cart or take the car. The packed provisions of hearty snacks and drinks along with the hour or two of swings, slides, spider net climbs, and the never-ending game of tag ensured a fun time at the playpark. Afterwards, we’d cool off by riding over to Twin Lakes and feeding the many varieties of ducks and geese. Visiting the playpark and feeding the ducks has been our morning or afternoon routine for the past nine years.

Until last weekend.

Sadly, another part of their childhood peeled off and was left behind during our morning trip to the local park. A warm spring morning with a clear blue sky started off this perfect day for a golf cart ride. Obviously, we weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the perfect weather.

Pulling into the parking lot, I’d never seen so many kids playing. All the swings and slides were occupied, and the spider climb was so covered with climbers of all sizes, you could hardly see the rope netting. Even the tire swing had a line of kids waiting. Still, the Girly girls jumped off the golf cart excitedly and, with pigtails dancing, ran to the place that had given them so much joy over the years.

Fifteen short minutes later, they came back announcing, “Papa, we’re ready to go.”

“There’s nothing but little kids here.”

“No one wants to play tag.”

And the saddest comment, “It’s just not fun anymore.”

Leaving the play park for what would likely be the last time, I asked if they wanted to drive over and feed the ducks.

“No. Can we just go back home and play in our room?”

Playing in our rooms as kids was something my three brothers and The Sister loved to do. We played, wrestled, put together and tore apart countless puzzles, mismatched Cootie Bugs, and staged epic battles between army men and Barbies. Water balloon battles and dart board games were a weekly occurrence until we were about fifteen.

Playing in our rooms together is a childhood memory I’ll never forget. Sadly, just like their time at the play park, there is also an expiration date when it comes to the girls playing in their rooms together. But for the next four or five years, they will be making memories that will last them the rest of their lives.

Yes, part of our granddaughters’ childhood was left behind last weekend, but if they’re blessed, it will come back. One day, they’ll return to the play park and make new memories of their own — enjoying daily trips, by way of golf cart or car, outfitted with provisions for an hour or two of fun with slides, swings, spider nets, and the never-ending game of tag.

New memories made with children and grandchildren of their own.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]