Friday, April 16, 2010

Why Whine?

Monday mornings in the spring around here bring a litany of my-weekend-was-worse-than-yours rants from over-taxed mothers. I started laughing the other day, outside the school, as the competition raged. One mother of three sounded as if she was singing her own rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas...

"Three baseball games, two soccer matches and a birthday party too!"

I gave her a gold star, of course. There is something about these rants that makes Park Slope both enviable (it was, after all, recently voted top New York neighborhood in New York magazine) and loathsome. See, we are lucky to have such bounty to bitch about, we are lucky to be so burdened. And our kids are lucky too. But, yet, scheduling is a challenge. The brass tacks of building kids' strength, confidence and social skills in a myriad of ways makes for a very tiring couple of days.

"At least it's Friday," Geordie said to me this morning. I just looked at him as I put the cupcakes into the oven for Eli's class birthday.

"Weekends are more stressful for me," I said, especially in the spring. Both boys have baseball and rugby, Eli has a birthday party, my Mom is in town...I start to feel overwhelmed, to make up my own 12 Days of Christmas rant, and then I remember: Oh, right. We are incredibly lucky.

Added to our weekend events will likely be a run over to the new YMCA at the Armory just a few blocks away. My friend Sandy who runs activities there reminded me yesterday of Saturday's Healthy Kids Day when I saw her outside Parco.

"There will be five bouncy castles!" she said, enthusiastic as usual.

My kids will love it, I'm sure. So, hopefully, will lots of other kids that live nearby, some of whom might not be so busy running from activity to activity planned by Type A parents of means. That, actually, is the point. The Y's Healthy Kids Day is a cross-country event expected to involve 800,000 attendees in an effort to encourage families to adopt healthier lifestyles, to "Put Play in Their Day."

It is easy to forget in the midst of our own busy weekends that plenty of people don't have the luxury of play, that their weekends are filled with work, running from job to job, and that their kids often, out of necessity not purposeful neglect, get left inside to entertain themselves however possible, to stay out of trouble. They do not always get the chance to get their necessary physical excercise.

I remember last year at this time when I was similarly planning Eli's birthday party, and I went to Radio Shack to pick up some things. I started talking to the cute, helpful kid behind the counter about the party, for which I was taking a bunch of Eli's friends on a hike into the park. I remember, and I think I wrote about it, that he said forlornly, "I've never been on a hike..."

"But you can go right here, in Prospect Park!" I said. I invited him along, but he had to work. I took his number but I got busy and never called. I should have. It is important to help urban people stuck in the concrete city, people fighting just to afford rent and food, remember to get excercise, to enjoy themselves, to play, in the park, in the Armory, wherever they can.

At the very least, even in the moments we can't help someone else remember, we can at least remember ourselves to appreciate all the time our own kids have to play. That is my mission for the weekend.

I am reminded, as I remind myself not to begin the rant, of a t-shirt I saw on a fellow parent recently and loved. It said WHINING with a big circle around it and a slash through it. No Whining. I told my friend about it and she laughed. "For the kids..." she said. I shook my head. "No," I said, "for us!" Park Slope parents, like ambitious parents everywhere, often need the reminder. I know I do.

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