Playing Through the Ages

As I lay in the snow squinting up into the bright sunlight, I lacked the energy and will to continue with the game that had so mercilessly put me in this position. I had landed with a thud and obliterated the snow angel my son’s tiny frame had etched in the soft, freshly fallen snow. But making snow angels was the last activity. We had moved on.

The new game seemed harmless enough – my kids, who were five and two at the time, would run and “tackle” me, and with great theatrics, I would jump sideways and land in the snow. My preference was to ooh and ahh at the snow angels all day, and with each dramatic leap, the reason for this became more clear.

After that last demoralizing landing, Nick hurried over and looked down at me with a seriously concerned, somewhat puzzled expression. He held out his hand and said, “Do you need some help getting up, Mom?” I was touched by his thoughtfulness – imagine, his 40 pounds pulling up my, well, lots more pounds -but was overcome by the realization that what I had feared was true: I’m not 18 anymore (or 20 or 25 or even – gasp! 30!), and I just couldn’t play the way I used to.

With very little grace I rolled over and pulled myself up; my neck ached and I winced as the curvature of my spine realigned itself. Apparently, Nick too was becoming familiar with my expression and posture. “Come on Elena,” he said to his sister. “Mom’s going to let us watch some TV now.”

At that time in their lives, our kids’ favourite type of play involved the whole family engaged in all-out, no-holds-barred wrestling brawls. That might not have been so bad, except that the entertainment value depended on how quickly and thoroughly mom and/or dad become twisted, tangled and injured on the floor.

Although we were somewhat concerned that this amused our kids so, we often willingly participated because little else produced the sheer delight and unabashed, guttural laughter that amused us so.

However, after each wrestling match with our smaller than average kids, my husband and I needed a good couple of hours to recover during which time we first felt sorry for ourselves, and we then felt sorry for each other.

We would reminisce about the days when we were in much better shape, and recognized the cruel irony that surely, back then, we would have been far better able to hold our own with these two small, yet exceptionally strong children.

It was time to admit it: we were aging, and judging by our bodies’ reactions to these physically insulting incidents, we weren’t doing it well. Although the realization had been lurking for a while, my Moment Of Truth came as I lay in the snow that day. My husband wasn’t quite so lucky: he was high up in a tree cutting the gnarled, dead branches away. This seemingly simple task was going well until he realized that, after spending a great deal of energy to climb the tree, he was left with none for his decent.   Nick, who had recently mastered the monkey bars, shouted advice and encouragement from the ground. Elena, who had been scaling the back of the couch, precariously teetering on the top, and sliding down the front, pointed toward the ground and said sternly, “Daddy down!”

And I, feeling completely sympathetic, hoped that there would be something on TV to lure the kids away from this potentially traumatic situation.

For my part, I had just assumed that the physical demands of caring for two small children would provide the fitness regime necessary to restore my aging body to its pre pregnancy physical condition. But I also believed that each time I gave my then two-year-old daughter grape juice in the living room, each time would be different from the last.

When it became painfully obvious that there were limits when playing with our kids we made some adjustments. When Nick would swing effortlessly across the monkey bars, and Elena would perform a nicely tucked summersault, we would dutifully assume the “spotter” position to ensure that each leap, climb or roll was safely executed.

And although we wistfully remember that we, too, were once able to leap, climb and roll, the memories are bittersweet: the pain and suffering we would now endure makes us reconsider our supervisory role as preferable, after all. Besides, somebody has to watch the kids.