Candler Park was bustling with toddlers, young children and parents enjoying the morning when I took Sam out to play with his friends. After a burst of being amply satisfied with the toddler sized jungle gym Sam eyed up the bigger apparatus and soon discovered the big curly whirly slide. Soon after that he was highly entertained scaring me half to death by scurrying up the stairs, lingering over the open platform to the high drop before walking out onto the slide and dropping down onto his bottom at the last moment. I spent that portion of our park experience hovering around trying to keep close to his side, ready for prompt action should he decide to dive off into the woodchips.

Finally, he had enough of that little game and wanderlust took over. Trusty stick in hand he intently explored his boundaries.

I first pulled the ball out of my bag as a lure to entice a wayward Sam back to the safety of the park before he determinedly disappeared up over a hill and out of sight. Hearing his name called he uncertainly turned around with a hesitant look on his face as if he was curious but didn’t want to respond because he knew it was an unwanted interruption to his goal of escape. His face shone with delight though when he eyed the football being held aloft and enticingly thrown in his direction. That was all it took for grand ideas of solo adventure to be banished, albeit momentarily, and with a cackle, a throwing back of the head in glee and a little bounce Sam came charging full pelt back down the hill as fast as his toddling legs could carry him to give the waiting ball a good boot.

Of course, a boy and his ball cannot play alone at the park for a football is like a honey pot to a Pooh Bear. Soon Lucas and Sean had also spied the ball and had their interest piqued. Over they came and the ball was quickly pilfered, creating an instant gut wrenching, end of the world, throw yourself on the floor tantrum from my little boy.

Mums coaxing small boys to share and play together nicely eventually turned tears to suspicious happiness as first Lucas, then Sean, was enticed to drop the ball and kick it to Sam, who would eagerly grab the ball, hold it tight to his chest and make off into the distance like a rugby player on his way to score a try.

Chasing after his little legs would result in anguished sobs and much persuasion was needed for him to return his possession to play. Yet, when he did allow the ball to be kicked to and fro between toddlers he would cackle and grin in delight, until the next time he decided the ball needed to be his alone.

Sam and Lucas ended up kicking the football around the park for while this morning. I can’t really say “happily kicked” as you can see that wouldn’t be quite accurate. Playing a simple game of footy involves Sam in a complex array of intense emotions that seem so absolute and raw but are each quite transient and fleeting and leave me feeling quite drained as an umpire, but utter delight and wonder as a mum.

Jen’s son, Jacob, who isn’t toddling yet, could only watch and beseechingly hold out his arms in the direction of the action with jealousy, angst and interest flashing across his face.

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