Today is the annual party in our neighborhood known as Family Day. Inflatable rides are rented, snow cones are made, the pool is open all day with no charge for guests, and local dads volunteer to man the grill to provide overpriced hamburgers to all comers. It’s a lot of fun.

Our experience of this event has changed dramatically over the years, though.

The first summer we lived here, KPD was off at a family event and I had stayed home so Kid could nap. Before we headed over to meet KPD, I took Kid in her stroller to look at the rides. She was overwhelmed. For the next few years, we would dip in to the events in the morning, Kid would ride the little train, and that was about as much as she could handle.

Today, we arrived at the park and Kid saw some friends from swim team. She ran off with them to the petting zoo while KPD and I ordered t-shirts. When we located her, I went over to have a chat. I asked her if she wanted to hang out with her friends without us, but she chose to wander back to us and enjoy some of the things she had liked when she was little: a snow cone, some spin art, and eventually, the inflatable obstacle course.

Then her best friend called, and Kid ran off to meet her. I, meanwhile, had been chatting with friends and neighbors, enjoying the fact that it wasn’t too hot, and watching people interact with Harpo, who was very excited by the whole idea of tons of people in the park.

After a while, KPD, who has a cold, got tired of standing in the park with the dog, so we decided to take Harpo home. Kid opted to stay with her friend. A few minutes ago, Kid ran into the house and asked for money to buy a burger, which we gave her. She says she’ll be home soon because she’s tired of Family Day. We’ll see. But I love that she’s old enough and independent enough to enjoy time with friends out and about, and responsible enough to buy herself some lunch.

Maybe it’s time to wander back over there and see what she wants to do next.