They didn't know that I was watching. As I peeked through a loose panel in the fence, they had no idea that anyone was witnessing them at play. I squinted slightly against the sun, and angled my head so I had the optimum view between the pickets of the fence. My son lay face down in the center of the neighbor's trampoline, giggling uncontrollably, as two neighbor girls jumped all around him, bouncing him up and down. He had absolutely no control over where he landed, or how high he bounced. The girls threw their head back, their hair bouncing slightly behind them as they jumped. Late summer sun shined on all of them like they were in their own spotlight, and in a way I guess that they were, except they weren't performing for me or anyone else.
As I watched, I couldn't help but smile wistfully and feel a slight pang of jealousy. When was the last time I was that carefree? When was the last time I gave up total control over myself and let life, or friends, bounce me around? When was the last time I felt that joyously happy and filled with total abandon?
As adults, we've moved past that phase in our life. Our lives are filled with to-do lists, stress and anxiety. Bills. Paychecks. Responsibilities. They pile up on us until they rob us of sleep and relaxation. We don't toss our heads back and laugh without a care in the world. We don't jump on trampolines and feel that moment of weightlessness.
As I watched them through that loose panel in the fence I wanted to call out to them, to let them know that I had witness their joy, but I caught myself before I made a sound. I didn't want to pull them out of their play and back into reality. I didn't want them to think, oh, someone is watching us. I had only come outside to check on them, to make sure they were safe, I didn't mean to spy on them or to watch them without them knowing it. I had simply stumbled up on their carefree playtime.
They're enjoying their last few days of summer vacation. School starts in less than a week. You can feel the clock ticking down in the air. There's a frenzy to their playtime now, as if they're trying to fit in one last round of every game they've played before the bell rings for the first time. Play in the sprinkler one last time, ride their bikes around the block one more time, one last dip in the pool and one last game of bounce on the trampoline. Climb the tree out front one more time before its leaves begin to turn, before the branches are bare.
Soon, there will be open houses to attend, classrooms to see for the first time and teachers to meet. Soon, we will be organizing school supplies and setting alarm clocks. Soon, we will be checking backpacks and doing homework.
But today is not for any of that. Today is for laughter, bouncing and being completely free!
I wish that I could capture that feeling for him and for his friends. I wish that I could extend that feeling of freedom -- for a few days, weeks, months maybe? I wish that I didn't have to turn off summer and start the rigors of back-to-school for him. Bedtimes, wake up times, homework times. Right now, there are no scheduled times. Eat when your stomach growls. Play when your friends knock on the door. Laugh whenever something makes you happy. My carefree child is happiest when there are no schedules to be followed, and I so wish that I could extend that happiness for him just a little while longer!