“Can we play basketball with that big yellow ball over there, Daddy?”
“I don’t think so, little buddy.”
“But Daddy, there’s a basketball court, and we don’t have a ball!”
In all honesty, I did not want to play with the ball my son had spotted. It was deserted in the middle of some grubby shrubs, just far enough away from the reach of a 5-year-old.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not someone who’s afraid to get dirty with his kid. But this yellow ball was covered with copious amounts of muck. I’m not talking a little bit of dirt; I’m talking about full on, caked on mud, after three days of torrential rain that can turn the most beautiful garden into a complete sludge pit. And that basketball court, it was covered in even more mud.
“No, buddy. We'll come back here and play another day, and we’ll bring our own basketball from home, okay?”
As I watched my son walk away, sad that we couldn’t play, I began to think, “Would we really make the time to come back to this park, basketball in hand?”
I wasn’t sure.
Just a couple of years ago, we were at this park almost every week. It was located beside my son’s first pre-school. It was where he met many of his first best friends. It was the park where he learned to slide down the twisty slide without having to hold anyone’s hand. And it was where he loved to collect sticks, rocks, and other treasures to bring home at the end of the day.
But now my son is older and life is full of new activities. Even though my husband and I have made the conscious decision not to over-program our kids, the reality is, between soccer, hockey, play dates, birthday parties, and family get-togethers, life with two kids is tremendously busy. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time we’d been to this park.
I looked down at the muddy yellow ball again, and noticed some writing. The name of my son’s first pre-school was written on the ball. I quickly understood that to my son, this wasn’t just a muddy ball; it was a muddy memory and a part of his past. This was a ball which he had spent many afternoons with, trying to master how to throw and catch.
“Wait, buddy!” I called out. “Let me see if I can get that ball.”
That afternoon, my son and I played the greatest game of basketball with the muddy yellow ball. Every time the ball hit the ground, dirt and mud exploded all around. By the time we finished our basketball game, we were head to toe covered in muck and grime. It was awesome.
I’ll admit, there was moments I would have loved to go back in time; back to when my little buddy was just learning how to throw and catch. But I know I can’t. My son is no longer that toddler who, two years ago, could barely get his arms around the yellow ball. He’s now a young boy, who can dribble and throw that same ball – and I couldn’t be prouder.
In the end, our day at the park was a good reminder: Kids grow up, memories get blurry, and the years fly by. We need to cherish every moment with our kids, and always remember to stop and play with that muddy ball.