It was late in the day but still sunny, so I took my daughter for a quick run to a local park so she could run around and get some monkey bar time. I got a Pumpkin Spice Latte, sat on a bench, and watched, and thought.

I have spent so much time at playgrounds over the past 17 years of parenthood. I see former versions of myself in the parents around the play structure. There is the mother with a newborn in a stroller, fussing over her baby every few minutes: adjusting his blanket, picking him up, putting him down, adjusting the shade or his little conehead hat, and on her face that absorbed look of the newly in love. There is the mom of the New Walker, hovering over her daughter as the wobbly child bravely attempts to navigate a stair with a rise half her size. There is the dad who is trying to reason with a toddler in the running/NO! phase, which I laugh at because it is such a colossal waste of time. Live and learn, sir. There's the dad who is coerced by his giddy blonde preschooler to go down the slide with her 20 times in a row, despite his size making it quite comical and ungainly. There are the soccer mom friends, who watch their kindergarteners pretend to be pirates on a massive ship, while the women talk about school and soccer and kids and food.

I see all those parents just starting out, their children falling and running and crying and yelling and screeching in joy. I sit there, and I feel overwhelmed. My daughter crosses the monkey bars back and forth, confident, solitary. She is not so much playing as working. I am not so much watching her as lost in my own thoughts, solitary.

A jet trail in the bright blue sky catches my eye, and its clean white line echoes a long black shadow on the grass from a light pole. My daughter runs back to the bench, her hands bright pink from the chill and the monkey bars, and snuggles against me for a few seconds, then runs forward onto a wide green space of grass, and does not look back.