Have you ever had a moment where you try something that used to be effortless, fail miserably, then realize you’re old and pathetically out of shape? I had that moment recently.
Let’s start at the beginning: All of this beautiful weather has created many opportunities for me and the boy to visit the wonderful parks and playgrounds we have in the area.
One perk of having a toddler is being able to use the playground during school hours, when there are fewer children around. On this day, I was thankful there were also fewer parents. Less witnesses.
If you haven’t been to a playground lately, you’re missing out on one of the greatest advancements ever in monkey bars — the obstacle course. Today’s advanced sets are veritable havens for the high-energy monkeys that we love. Gone are the days of bare metal horizontal ladders.
The sets now have pull up bars that connect to swinging bridges, which take you to a zipline and finish with a curvy swing across to a fireman’s pole. They’re impressive.
They also look a lot easier to complete than they actually are.
We had a rare afternoon of solitude at the park, where I was playing actively with my son… by watching him… from my sunning spot on the bench by the swings… where I was drinking my venti iced tea.
While on the bench, my eyes stopped on one section of the playground, about eight horizontal bars that landed on the swinging bridge. I felt the hair on the back of my neck raise and memories of third grade came flooding back.
I used to love the monkey bars, until the last week in third grade. One bloody accident, two chipped teeth and six years of braces later, I haven’t been on a set since.
So, I decide today is the day. I’m going to swing across those monkey bars just like I did back in 1993. Mistake #1.
I chugged down the rest of my tea (mistake #2), put my iPhone in my pocket (mistake #3) and prepared to climb the wooden steps to the eastern side of the monkey bars (mistake #4).
As I stepped across the railroad tie and sank into the tiny pebbles that would serve as my landing IF I fell, I looked down to see the beautiful blue polish chip from my toes. Oh, that did it. It’s on now, monkey bars.
I perched on the edge of the wooden platform, strong, ready to take back the playground. My son stood to the side and clapped excitedly, ready to see his graceful mother swing effortlessly across the bars and land like a butterfly on the other side.
As I stretched out to touch the first bar I thought it seemed a little far from the platform (WARNING SIGN #1), but tiptoed closer. Now, the moment… I grabbed the bar with my right hand, let my feet leave the platform (mistake #5) and willed my left hand up to the second bar.
Then, I couldn’t move. I was stuck, dangling over the abyss of juvenile memories. My palms suddenly started sweating and I decided it was time to let go of the bar, two bars in. A really far ten inches later, I landed on my feet, but I had a huge urge to run to the swings and wait for the bell signaling the ice cream break. But no, this is real life. There is no magic bell that calls you forth to white, styrofoam cups of strawberry ice cream, eaten with wooden spoons.
Embarrassed, I glanced back up at the monkey bars. How could I fail at this? Of all of the areas in life where I could fail, I was a playground drop-out. I had to make it right.
My heart started pumping harder, my vision got a little clearer and I once again ran up the steps to the wooden platform. This time, failure was not an option. My son was watching. The first round was for me, but this time, it’s for him. I grabbed the first bar, swung out big and managed to grab the third bar with my left hand. My momentum carried me forward and I grabbed the fifth bar, then the seventh and finally my feet landed on the far shore!
I had done it! Triumphantly, I raised my fists in the air and looked around. A octogenarian walking around the lake stopped out of shock and looked at me, then shook her head and walked on. I pulled my T-shirt back down over my muffin top and smiled from ear-to-ear as I slide down the pole. By then my son has lost interest, and was climbing his own ladder to the big slide. I rushed to be his spotter, my moment in glory gone.
I glanced down at my aching hands and saw nickle-size blisters start to rise. My thighs started to burn from sliding down the pole.
That’s it, this mom is sticking with the swings. Monkey bars are for the birds.