Updated: May 12, 2020
My mother and I talk to each other every day. Our conversations ebb and flow between honesty and omissions. I wouldn't say we lie to each other, because we don't. But, we have developed the art form of avoiding each other's triggers. For example, I don't bring up anything to do with Africa, unless it is artwork or updates on the friends I still have from my early years in Nigeria. She on the other hand, knows not to question my parenting choices. We just don't go there. It has never ended well and we value so many other parts of our relationship to focus on the bits that are sensitive topics.
With this framework, we have covered almost every other topic under the sun several times over and got comfortable in the safety of our conversations. We glide topic to topic and our relationship reminds me so much of our neighbourhood park called Avondale. Always there when you need it, and opportunities to glide in comfort- much like my children did in this hammock I strung up last week.
Just yesterday while we were on the phone, I had to excuse myself twice from the call. Not because I wasn't enjoying our conversation, but because I was approaching a triggering moment. She wasn't aware, but, a strange man had begun yelling and following me around the park and chasing my children across a field while hollering at them and throwing sticks. "Mom, I'll call you back in a minute." seemed like the most logical thing to say while floundering through my bag for my personal protective equipment options. That and I desperately needed to be calling the police, instead of describing how much I love my motion sensor counter top garbage can. I really do love it, and so does my mom since she got her self one too. But, that's a post for another day.
Today, I wasn't expecting to need self defense tactics in this open field that had always felt like a pair of yoga pants I'd slip into at the start of a long weekend. But, here we were, coming to new realities in our old world. So, mom and I hung up. The man fled to a near by bus stop and proceeded to get on a bus and I sat down on a bench trying to come to terms with my feelings on that brief, but terrifying ordeal, while rattling off my report on the phone to the police. I watched my children explore their own feelings through play; Hide and Seek and Tag by "the bad guy" emerged.
Mothering was like Avondale Park that day. Life being much like the wide open space where my kids all go in different paths, and nothing is defined. I can see them in life, but can't telepathically will them closer to me from across the proverbial field when danger is near.
A field we had been to countless times since we moved in just down the street 2 years ago now began to feel unknown and It dawned on me that half of the conversations with my mother about my parenting choices included the words "be careful...". Words I had said a million times at this park. As Denzel climbs the giant rock face and leaps through the air to the mulch below I utter those words under my breath: "Be careful". As Jazlyn crossed the spider web rope obstacle course "be careful" automatically leaves my lips, and the words drift unheard through the air. Denzel balances, and often times falls off the see-saw he was determined to conquer and conquer he does - but not before I say a little prayer for his safety.
Avondale is our mothering park; comfortable, and easy to access. It comes with just the right amount of space to let my children be independent and just the right amount of risk so they feel good about their achievements and the unexpected things they learn just after they thought they knew it all.
With Covid-19 the playground has been off limits so we have found new spaces to enjoy. Stumps to leap off of, trees to string a hammock across, bugs to discover.
Much like the conversations I have with my own mother day in and day out, I never really know if a day at Avondale will be just like the other days, or if it will reveal something new. Perhaps I'll learn something I hadn't considered before, maybe I'll learn something a little scary. But, I know we will return again and again. With new knowledge, new awareness, and a reminder to expect the unexpected. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to admit to my own mother. She was right about so many things after all.
Today, the price of peace was $0.
My personal protective equipment was gifted to me by a friend's husband who recognized how often I'm out with the kids alone and wanted me to be careful.
Edit to add: we recently discovered this park also has the perfect branches for hanging sitting hammocks over an outstretched branch. Such fun!