Mere miles from my house there is a lovely park full of mature trees, meandering paved walking paths, a jungle gym, a sandbox, a creek, a slide, and a rock-climbing wall.
When I take my three daughters there, like I did on Friday morning, I immediately enter hyper-vigilant mode: counting heads, making sure that the baby isn't eating sand, that the three-year-old isn't wandering into the creek, that the six-year-old isn't dangling upside down by her knees from the rock wall, that the baby isn't propelling herself head-first down the slide, that the three-year-old isn't exploring by herself on one of the meandering walking paths, that the six-year-old isn't dangling upside down by her knees from the monkey bars, that the baby isn't whacking another child on the head with a sand shovel...
You get the drift.
After several rounds of climbing the jungle gym stairs behind the baby, my arms extended to prevent her from tumbling off the edge, and then hoisting her on my lap so we could slide together (safety in numbers, right?), I noticed a young girl watching me.
"Are all those kids yours?" she asked, scratching the crook of her knee with the heel of her tennis shoe.
"You must get very tired some days."
I laughed, then peered at her more closely, suddenly intrigued by this sage in a child's body. "How old are you, sweetie?"
You have got to be kidding me.
"You're wise beyond your years," I told her. She crinkled her nose in a way that suggested she didn't understand, and then she smiled -- a glorious smile.
"Plus, your smile lights up a room," I added.
"People have told me that."
I wasn't at all surprised.