I am that mom ignoring my kids on the playground. I'm on a bench, eating my Terra Chips and tuna, rocking my yoga pants and sweater with no bra. It's sunny and warm and my long ignored winter toes are seeing the light of day for the first time.
100 yards away I can see my kids. Sort of. One is tromping through the woods behind the school. From here he looks like a Pirate. Or maybe a Lost Boy. A few minutes later he is out of site but I make no move. He will surely reappear. I am not worried. There are plenty of kids around. His sister gets nervous before I do.
If there was an injury or a schoolyard war broke out, I would be alerted. For now I am unconcerned.
From the outside I'm sure it looks like I'm texting, zoning, ignoring. I'm sure the other parents are judging me. I can feel it. But really I'm thinking this is exactly what they need. Space to roam. Time to be unobserved. Room to test their own limits. Opportunities to make choices and succeed and sometimes get hurt. I think these moments are a gift to them and to myself.
I spent hours alone as a child. I recently read this article and felt genuinely sorry that I cannot offer more of this life to my children. I got lost in the woods and built structures and determined for myself what was safe and what was too risky. I dreamed and imagined and with enough uninterrupted time, I got swept away in my inner worlds. Space and time feels smaller now then it did then.
I don't play with my kids very often and that's ok with me. They entertain themselves and each other. They draw and build and run and imagine and fight, together and alone. I support and encourage and from time to time I help, but mostly I tell them to go find something to do. I am guilty of many mommy sins, but hovering is not one of them.
If I know you well enough (you know who you are) and you entrust your children to me, I'm going to ignore them, too. Yes, this is how I discovered that my daughter and her friend had decided to cut her hair. And yes, this is how I discovered that my son and his friend had dug up a section of the yard and thrown the dirt all over the deck and siding and screen door of the house. But dirt gets swept and hair grows back and they've tasted freedom and learned how to set their own limits.
Meanwhile, back in the woods, I see another mom walking toward the fort. I see her lecturing. I see her putting external boundaries on their play. The spell is broken. She is standing at the edge of their play space on patrol now. I imagine that shortly she will come tell me how so-and-so was being bossy, or how my kid wandered off beyond *her* comfort zone. My main concern is that they've stopped playing, not that they weren't playing by adult rules. She's pulled her kid away, they are going home. Mine go back up the hill into the woods.