I pick up my homemade iced coffee and take a sip. It cools and revives me at the same time. It is so humid I can feel the moisture settling into my skin. I set my coffee down and grab my book trying to take my mind off the sweat dripping down my back. Soon I'm swept up into my book.
Before I begin the next chapter I take another look at my watch. Not even ten minutes have passed. I steal a glance around the playground and find the boys chasing each other around. They run up the slides, down the slides, across the monkey bars, up the climbing wall. Finally they settle in the area below the slides and start up some imaginary world on a submarine. I wonder if they know how lucky they are to have each other.
My mind wanders back to a time when three boys was all I knew. My heart swells with memory.
A large group of kids from the YMCA's daycare come bounding onto the playground. Immediately the playground breaks into two distinct groups. Boys are playing on one side and girls on the other. I laugh at the separation and return my attention back to my book.
"Are you Ben's mom?" a little boy that I recognize asks me.
"Yep!" I answer as I place my bookmark in my book.
"Yeah. I go to school with him." the cute little blond boy tells me.
"I know! You're Caleb, right?" I say back.
"Uh-huh! My teacher doesn't let us bring cars to the park but I did anyway." Caleb announces and shows me his pockets full of Hot Wheels.
"Well aren't you a little stinker!" I feign shock. "Don't worry. I won't tell. Just don't lose them, okay?" I remind him.
"I have so many cars. They are everywhere. It doesn't matter." he tells me as he runs off calling for Ben.
My eyes follow Caleb back to the playground and I notice Joey trying to help a little boy reach the highest exercise bar. Joey wraps his arms around the boy's waist and lifts him. The boy stretches and reaches with all his might but his fingertips still come up a couple inches shy of the bar. Joey sets him down, wraps his arms around the boys thighs and lifts him again. The boy's fingertips just brush the bar. Joey sets him down again and looks up at the bar. Joey and the boy talk for a few seconds and then Joey gets down on his hands and knees and instructs the boy to stand on his back. Holding on to the pole next to him the boy does as he is told and finally reaches the bar. Both of the boys let out a "Yay!" as the young boy dangles by his hands for a few seconds and then drops to the ground. Joey gives him a high five and goes about his business on the playground with his new little shadow following after.
"Mom! Hey, Mom! Watch this!" Tommy yells to me. I find Tommy on the monkey bars and watch as he skips one bar and then two on his way across. "Did you see that? I can skip bars!" He shouts.
"Cool!" I answer back and toss him a thumbs up.
"Watch this!" Tommy repeats as he goes back across the monkey bars again and again.
This goes on for a few minutes. Each of my boys playing the "watch me" game and vying for my attention. Accolades and thumbs up are given out to each boy until they are satisfied and find something else to occupy themselves with.
I pick up my book again but am immediately distracted by the girls screaming on the merry-go-round type of apparatus a few yards from me. There are 8 or 9 girls sitting on the circle demanding that the boys come over and push them. Two good-natured fellows take on the challenge. Round and round the girls go while the boys huff and puff. The circle does not spin easily and stops the minute the boys take a rest. The girls are not satisfied. They insist the boys go faster and tell them they are wimps when they don't succeed. The boys finally get fed up and leave the girls to push themselves. I shake my head and smile. "Girls, girls, girls. You are going about this all wrong." I think to myself. I can't help but chuckle. They'll learn.
I sneak another peek at my watch. Twenty minutes left.
My eyes find my boys on the playground. All three of them are playing together with half a dozen boys they don't know. Joey is, of course, barking out orders. "Batten down the hatches, men! Prepare to dive!" he orders his soldiers. Ben and Tommy take turns looking through the periscope and calling out their location and where the enemy submarines are. "We are gonna Run Silent, Run Deep, men!" Joey tells them. "What does that mean?" another boy asks. Joey just shakes his head.
Tommy climbs up a ladder on the outside of the "submarine" and notices me watching. Unsure of where my eyes are looking underneath my sunglasses he tosses me a big cheesey smile. I offer a big cheesey smile back. Satisfied that I am watching him he races up the ladder and continues with his play.
Ben follows Tommy up the ladder and a bigger boy smooshes in next to him, vying to be the first up the ladder. The whole ladder shakes and wobbles as the older boy tries to budge past Ben. For a moment there is a struggle between the two boys until Ben decides it isn't worth it and allows the older boy to go ahead of him. Ben looks over at me to see if I've witnessed the injustice. I toss him a thumbs up as I raise my voice and say, "You rock!"
I check my watch, yet again, calculate the time it will take to walk one block back to the YMCA, and decide we still have another five minutes left.
"Just a few minutes guys. Then we have to head out, okay?" I warn my boys.
They nod their heads and I delve back into my book.
A few minutes pass and Ben walks up to me. "Is it time to get Gracie yet?" he asks.
"Yep! We'd better get going." I answer.
"We wouldn't want to be late. She'd probably freak out, right?" Ben says.
"Maybe." I laugh.
I call the boys and soon we are walking back down the sidewalk, into the Y, up the stairs, and down the hallway. We are a few minutes early and the boys entertain a baby and the other waiting families with their goofiness and silly faces. I shush them and try not to roll my eyes at their antics.
The door opens up and 7 tiny, pink ballerinas come walking out, each with worried faces. The worried faces melt into happiness and relief when their parents are spotted.
"Mommy!" Grace squeals as she runs to me.
"Hi honey! Did you have fun?" I ask her as I sweep her up into my arms.
"Uh-huh! And I didn't even cry!" she tells me.
"Good job! Such a big girl!" the boys and I tell her proudly.
Down the stairs and out into the sunshine we go. My three boys. My girl. And me.