there is a particular playground that is located near the achingly charming abington square in the west village. it is adjacent to the famous magnolia cupcake bakery which is just steps away from swanky marc jacobs' kids boutique. the playground itself is lined with the ubiquitous black wrought iron nyc parks & rec fence and boasts a thick frosting of sycamore trees on the perimeter that lends perfect shade at the right time of day.
once inside, the first thing you notice are a dozen or so hip 40-something parents standing in clusters chatting casually while their toddlers trip and tumble around their ankles. then you notice the ever present, ominous fleet of strollers that form an eerie straight line near the entrance. the new strollers are so slick and comfortable looking that it makes nolan's stroller from '00 look like a barbaric rolling chamber from hell. they're all loaded up so generously with toys, food, drink that the mere site of one of these convenient contraptions would make any lazy adult want to crawl right into one and never come out.
nolan is oblivious to all of this and generally runs freely about the yard without me having to shadow him. i rest easy in that he no longer feels the need taste-test everything that is not nailed to the ground. i also can relax because he no longer has the desire to run, forest! run! out the through the open gate and into city traffic. i also want to give him space. nolan would refuse to speak to me for days if i were to suddenly appear at the end of the 3 foot high kiddie slide with open arms waiting for him.
so. to keep an eye on him, i sit alone on an uncomfortable green bench, wedged in-between two gigantic designer diaper bags. everyone else is burning calories all over the playground, chasing after their toddlers and preventing head injuries. for this i feel like an outsider sometimes because i'm a little younger (33) with a child that's a little older (9). we fall outside the range of the oft practiced familial age ratio in new york city. if i were to have practiced this ratio, i would be 50 right now.
so yes - i've been mistaken for my son's nanny/older sister and that's okay! really! to me, it's like getting carded at the liquor store and you want to hug the smelly man behind the counter for being so presumptuous as to think that you could be a day younger than 21 (at most!).
my heart goes out to new (older) parents i see struggling to push their prams in a straight line along the narrow sidewalks of new york. i was lucky to have had that 20-something energy to get me through nolan's first few years. i can't imagine having that very same energy now that i did back then. it's hard work! there's a lot of wrinkle inducing eyebrow knotting, lost REM sleep, misplaced thoughts, countless meals-gone-cold on your dinner plate when you have an infant in the house.
while we're out and about, i often turn to look at nolan, who is almost matching me in height/stride/sense of humor and wonder what the hell happened to the last nine years. it was a blink. a heartbeat. an immature fart noise he can make with the back of his hand. i mean, WOAH. he LIKES asparagus (i don't)! he can play chess (i can't)! and he makes fun of me on my bad hair days! it gets much easier, less messy and increasingly rewarding as the little guy becomes a bigger guy and i become the shorter mama with a wealth of pride taller than both of us combined.
oh, and to get back to the playground i was telling you about - actor josh hamilton goes there with his kid. last week, i found myself shyly sitting next to him as we watched our kids plow happily through the sand box and jungle gym. i wanted to clumsily blurt out his cleverly written lines that noah baumbach wrote for the amazing cinematic work of art called kicking & screaming. my enthusiasm combined with acute nervousness would have me punctuating the end of every sentence with a sweaty high pitched "remember?!".
mmmmaybe if we see him again this afternoon, I will do just that. i will verbally reprise every scene i loved in kicking & screaming and act like i'm not nervous around a marginally successful actor who was in my favorite movie of all time, no. i'm not nervous! and then he will quietly tip-toe away from me and move his son to the furthest end of the playground wondering what the hell that crazy nanny was talking about.