I've been thinking a lot about parents and little kids these days. Maybe it's because it's summer. Maybe it's because when I see all the kids in pure joy in the ball fountain area of Heritage Park, it makes me wish that Heritage Park had even existed when my kids were little.

Maybe it's because we've moved to a new neighbourhood where we've got a lovely young family next door. Parents with little kids. Kids that go to parks and play in fountains.

Our neighbourhood is blessed to have a nearby park and it's got a busy playground in it.

So, all of this got me remembering about the two big surprises of having little kids who turn into big kids.

Here goes...

Usually, especially first time round, we capture everything on film. (Second time, too, if we stay committed) First tooth! I can still open the photo album of Kid One and there it is, this white chiclet right there under his top lip. Perfect! Snap! Captured.

First steps. That face of absolute joy as balance gives way to movement. Snap! Captured.

First stairs, first up and then down. Snap!

First day at nursery school, little bag slung over his or her shoulder, matching coveralls and sweater, all hand made of course. Snap!

First day in the Y pool. Snap! First day swimming all alone. Snap!

You get the picture. Literally!

Well, it's sad, really. As a committed parent, you make sure your kids get lots of parks time. Actually, in an effort to make sure Kid One felt okay about the arrival of Kid Two, he and I went to City Hall and got a map with all the parks in Barrie pictured on it. We made a chart. Once a week we packed a picnic and went out on our own and we visited and played in every single park! We marked them off with coloured dots that bestowed a grading on them. It was a terrific experience for both of us.

Kid One would have been about seven.

Parks and playgrounds loom large in the life of a kid. Centennial Park's waterfront and playground was a regular place for moms and tots, for our family times, for coffee groups where kids came too. I mean, playgrounds MATTERED!

Then one day, as I started to pack a picnic for 'alone time' with Kid One, I asked if he wanted to select a park or load the canoe onto the car and choose a river. He looked at me like I was missing a link somewhere. "I don't want to go to a park anymore."

And it was over. No playground needed. Now it was on to skateboards, roller blades, independent bicycling with buddies. A playground was definitely OUT. No warning here. No opportunity to say "Just stand there in front of that slide while I capture this, your final visit to a playground." We just don't get warning for that.

And then there is laptime. You know what I mean, when you wee one or wee ones climb aboard, clustering within the anchor of your arms while you read their favourite story. They climb up while you're at the kitchen table, or at your desk, or on the phone doing an interview for a story you're writing... whatever! As a parent, your lap is public property as far as your kids are concerned. It's as important as a stroller or a high chair. And it lasts a long time.

Then one day, you notice that such-and-such a kid has not sat on your lap for awhile. In fact, it'll take some serious thinking to remember when the last lap event was. Seems to me this was somewhere around aged 8 or 9. And I can't remember whether it was before or after the playground. But I do know it was around the same time.

Kids don't jump down from your lap and announce "now, that's the last time I'm doing that!" No photo op here! No snap! for the last lap!

Interesting, isn't it? They just pull the rug out from under you and carry on their merry way.

So, if you're at the playground stage or you find yourself sighing when a little one climbs aboard, enjoy it! Snuggle in with them. Because you won't know it's over til it's over!

....

On another note. It was 10 years ago this month that Lori Martin called and asked me if I'd be interested in writing a column for the Advance. She was generous in her offer... I could write about anything! Faces & Places, she called it. Editor of the forerunner to the Advance (The Barrie Banner) for several years, this gave me the opportunity to meet a deadline and challenge myself on a weekly basis.

This is column 474. Frankly, I'm surprised. The best part of doing this column is being able to tell the positive stories that might not otherwise be told. The other best part is the comment, the appreciation, the feedback that comes from Advance readers.

Thanks to all of you! And thanks, Lori.

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