Mount Vernon Woods Park

 There is no shortage of parks in our neighborhood, and there is no shortage of excitement in our home to visit said parks and explore. We set out on an afternoon drive to find Huntley Meadows Park. However, that was not to be the case. For some reason, our GPS would take us to a neighborhood, and a gate with a sign that said Huntley Meadows Trail or something of the sort but it was locked and we could not park anywhere. It just looked like the edge of a forest, and it was. After trying two or three times and being thoroughly frustrated, we drove up a few blocks further and came to the Mt. Vernon Woods Park and an elementary school right across the street from it.  The park was mostly deserted and from the street, where we parked, we could see some swings and a slide. Other than that, it wasn't much of a park, really. I was not a happy camper as I was looking forward to exploring Huntley Meadows and its wonderful wetlands that I had seen pictures of. 

  Aaron insisted on just stopping at this park instead and I was miffed. But, having no choice since the alternative of spending our time driving around was not appealing, I reluctantly agreed to just play on the swings for a few minutes. We got out, and Gracie took off down the path towards the swings.  As we neared the play area, suddenly two teenagers, one with his pants halfway down his rear and a towel around his neck, jumped up from the slides, and started to walk away. My mommy instincts were on full alert and I just knew something was up. I told Aaron, "I bet you they were dealing drugs something of the sort." Aaron thought I was overreacting and finding excuses to leave because I didn't want to be there. (Partly true.) But, I didn't want to deny Gracie some time to stretch her legs and get some energy out, so we stayed. Besides, the light was so beautiful.

Aaron grabbed Gracie and jumped up on a swing. She giggled and they were off! He, pumping his legs to make the swing go higher, and she, laughing hysterically while holding on for dear life to her darling daddy. These moments are so precious in our short lives on this earth and reminds me of what matters most. We spent some time on the swings, enjoying our time together, when I happened to glance in the direction of the two young men who had hurriedly walked away from the slide earlier. I, then, noticed that one of them was rolling a piece of white paper, and the other was lighting up a similar one - weed. Nice. This is what I had to put up with while my little girl played innocently a few yards away? No way! I started packing up our things to leave and Aaron was having too much fun and didn't want to stop.

 In a huff, I walked off in the direction of the car, and Gracie followed me. So, Aaron decided to compromise and suggested that we go over to the school playground instead.  I knew that Gracie would love it, so we headed over there. It was a little playground with a few kids on the monkey bars. Gracie loved it, of course, and wanted to walk up the stairs (her favorite thing to do), and go down the slides. I love this age she is in - her sense of adventure and discovery are boundless and she throws herself into each experience fully, usually accompanied with much laughter and shrieks of joy. Her daddy was having a lot of fun, too, and raced her up the steps and down the slides.

While we were playing, a group of young, elementary-age kids came back to play/hang out at the playground. All of them had their phones out and some of the most foul language I have ever heard from the mouth of a child. Aaron and I looked at each other and we could sense each other's discomfort. The conversation slowed down, and we continued our playtime. A few minutes later, some of the girls started teasing the boys and the talk turned to taking selfies and sexting each other. Still unable to believe that these children were not older than twelve, we were both uneasy just being there. Obviously, this was the norm for these kids. By this time, Gracie was getting restless and it was time for dinner and bedtime. We walked off in the direction of our car, both of us wondering how different that scene could have been. As we walked off, we noticed the mother of two cute little boys who were playing with us. She could not have been older than 17 and was on her phone, texting away furiously, completely oblivious as to where her kids were.

The whole scene made me so sad. Despite their bad language and their shenanigans with each other, they were nice to Gracie and friendly. We chatted with them for a few minutes and then began walking back to our car. Our minds were occupied with thoughts of how important a job being a parent is. Our influence on our children is critical and it is our responsibility to ensure that it we teach them well and let them govern themselves.

 Although we only stayed for a shorter time than normal, I managed to capture some of that joy and they turned out to be some of my favorite pictures ever! I mean, just look at that smile on Gracie's face, and the equally joyous one on Aaron's face! This time we are spending together as a family is special and one that we will look back on with fond memories. I hope we continue to place our family and its priorities first, and create memories that last a lifetime.


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