One constant of being a parent is that you will often be surprised. Whether it’s an potty accident in the car after you tried to get them to go at the rest stop, a new color on your painted walls that match the crayon lying nearby, or even a sudden interest in learning to play the keyboard after years of screaming ‘no’ when asked if they’d like lessons, you are pretty much guaranteed to be kept on your toes for 18 years and counting.
One thing I was surprised to be surprised about however, was how little interest my children would have in all the things that interested me as a child. Sure, ice cream and swimming and coloring books are classics that they love as well, but there are many things I took for granted they would love because I loved them. I was often wrong.
My favorite book as a child, OUTSIDE OVER THERE? Too weird, Mom. Can we please read PINKALICIOUS and MOO, BAA, LA LA LA? Maybe we’ll indulge you and let you read us WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.
Why are you trying to make us watch this annoying movie with a lady singing on a hilltop? We’ll be so much better behaved while we watch THE LEGO MOVIE and FROZEN.
Lincoln Logs were only fun for 5 minutes. Where are the magna tiles and monster high dolls and oh, can we play with your iPad?
Okay, it’s not so horrible. I even like THE LEGO MOVIE and honestly love books by Sandra Boynton, but there’s a feeling of loss when the games and toys that brought me so much joy failed to do the same for my children.
Which is why one of the best parts of nice weather for me is the Don’t Come Back game. No, this isn’t a game where you push your child out the front door and tell them not to come back and see how long it takes for the cops to be called.
It’s a game I learned from my father on the playground up the road from our house. He’d push me on the swing for a bit, back and forth like normal, then tell me he was going to count to three and on the count of three, I had to stay out in the air. If I came back, I was going to get tickled. I loved this game with all my heart, even though I came back and got tickled. Every single time. Now, if I understood at all about physics and gravity at a young age, I’d know there was absolutely no way (other than falling off the swing I suppose) that I was NOT going to not come back, but because the rules of the game were that I had to try and do it, there felt like a smidgen of a chance that if I pumped my legs hard and fast enough, I would be able to stay out in the air. So I tried as hard as I could, every single time. And when I felt myself fall backwards, the anticipation of getting tickled was beyond delicious.
I begged my father to play the Don’t Come Back game whenever we were near a swing and he often obliged. I could never get enough.
Until I grew older, and swings and playgrounds were no longer visited. And the Don’t Come Back game was forgotten.
When we moved to our current house, we got a swingset in our backyard. The Don’t Come Back game was suddenly remembered. I took my daughter and put her on the swing and pushed her back and forth for a while.
“I’m going to count to three, and on the third push you’re going to have to stay out in the air. If you come back, I’m going to tickle you,” I told her.
“Okay,” she said in a confused voice.
“One, two, three. Don’t come back!”
She pumped her legs as fast as they would go. She tried as hard as she could to stay in the air because she thought there was a chance it’d happen. She came back. I tickled her. She squealed with delight.
“Do it again, Mommy! Play don’t come back again!” She begged.
So I did. And I still do.