Welcome to the Jungle(Gym)

Here’s a confession that is bound to land me in the bad-parent hall of fame, right there next to Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest and that lady who put her baby in a tanning bed:  I hate the park.  I know, I know, I’m terrible.  Apparently I’m missing that gene that allows one to derive endless joy from pushing a swing back and forth for hours on end.  Which I’m convinced is the same gene that enables you to dust your house more than once a month or iron a shirt without burning a hole in it.  But honestly, I just don’t understand the appeal.

Maybe it’s the sand you can’t sift through without finding 65 used band-aids, or the colorful graffiti, lovingly scrawled by the spelling/logic impaired; but the park is just not my scene.  I try to be a good sport, I really do.  But my main issue is that the park is always chock full of one of my least favorite things:  other people.  And oh, they are other, those people!  Why is it that only the extreme ends of the parenting spectrum appear to be represented?  There is seemingly no middle-ground between the hovering, absurdly enthusiastic, fruit-snack dispensing parent-droids and the bench dwelling sloths that wouldn’t look up from their text conversation if their kid was on fire.  And the kids, oh god the kids!  Roving bands of snot-nosed urchins ready to cough Pertussis directly into your mouth if you dare come within 5 feet of them.  Last week, a boy no more than 5 years-old walked up to me, looked me dead in the eye and said “I’m going to kick your kid in the face.”  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?  I reacted to the situation the way any reasonable parent would, by telling him that if he so much as tries it I will break into his house while he’s sleeping and break all his toys.  One of my proudest moments, obviously.  This incident occurred only a few days after a little girl with an utterly Machiavellian plot to overthrow the pirate ship slide nearly hurled my child down a flight of stairs.  Really, you should have seen this girl.  She was terrifying.  I can only imagine her evenings are spent huddled under a Dora the Explorer comforter with a flashlight and a dog-eared copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.  The whole park-going ritual has taken on a bit of a Lord of the Flies feel, as of late.  Remind me later to Google ‘Fisher Price “My First Brass Knuckles”’ so I don’t have to feel like I’m sending my little guy in unarmed.

Yeah, but what the hell does it do?

Even on the days when it isn’t teeming with tiny sociopaths and the people who parent them, the park is still not my favorite.  Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not a total monster.  I love it when my son is having fun – fresh air, sunshine, blah, blah, blah.  But up the slide, down the slide, up the slide, down the slide… come on!  I can only keep my enthusiasm up for so long.  And can someone please tell me exactly when classic playground elements became so painfully outdated?  Aside from the fact that there have been no substantial advancements in swing technology, most modern playground equipment bears little resemblance to anything I remember.  Jungle gyms appear to have been replaced with contraptions that look like medieval torture devices.  But perhaps I’m just a traditionalist.  Or maybe I feel cheated that I grew up with lame-ass monkey bars instead of super-sweet zip lines.  Either way, I can’t help but miss the metal merry-go-rounds from my childhood.  The ones that gave you 3rd degree ass burns on sunny days and spun so fast they could enrich uranium.

So there you have it.  Add the park to the list of things that didn’t magically become more fun upon becoming a parent, right along with 6:00 AM wakeup calls and cleaning up another person’s feces. (Although, I really didn’t have high hopes for that last one)  There are still plenty of things my son and I can agree are the bee’s knees:  going for long walks, super messy art projects and impromptu living room dance parties, to name a few.  Maybe I need to cut myself a little slack for sometimes finding even the “fun” parts of parenting just a little bit tedious.  I’ve never been so delusional as to think I’d be a perfect mom, but somehow always feel a little guilty when I fall short.  No one is ever going to love every part of it, and that’s okay.  Or maybe it’s a simple matter of perspective.  Sure, the park may seem boring if I’m comparing it to, say, happy hour with 2-for-1 gin and tonics.  But hey, at least it isn’t cleaning up another person’s feces!

Just Add Water

Hoping everyone had a super fantastic Labor Day weekend.  I know, I know…a little late on the draw.  Give me a break, huh?  Blogging ain’t easy!  For me, the final days of summer are always bittersweet.  And by that, I mean I spend the better part of August throwing tantrums whenever I notice the sun setting early or the temp dipping below 85 degrees.  But thanks to a mini-heat wave in the Twin Cities, we were able to give the summer a proper send-off with one final trip to the pool.

I absolutely love the pool.  I do.  Perhaps more than a 31-year-old woman should love paddling around in a body of water comprised of no less than 3% little kid urine.  But I just can’t help it.  One whiff of chlorine and I’m gone; the nostalgia takes over and I’m 8-years-old again, pedaling my pink banana-seat Schwinn the two blocks from my house to the public pool.  I’d while the afternoons Marco Polo’ing with other neighborhood urchins, or parked at the concession stand, plowing through envelopes of Lik-M-Aid like Lindsay Lohan through a gram of Colombia’s finest.  Hours were spent launching myself into water exactly 8 degrees warmer than the Bering Sea, serenaded by the sweet, mullet-y sounds of Richard Marx over the loudspeaker as I re-surfaced from one sweet-ass jack knife after another.  (Yes, I said Richard Marx…shut up, it was the late 80’s!)  To this day, I’m convinced Hawaiian Tropic SPF 5 contains some sort of mystical gypsy powers.  If I could spend five hours on a concrete pool deck without even a hint of sunburn, surely there must be some scientific properties we could harness to reverse global warming?  Remind me to look into that later…

More than two decades later, there is still no way I’d rather spend a summer day.  I wish I could say I had the same fondness for naturally occurring bodies of water, but let’s be real.  Fish poop in there!  Thankfully, I’m picking up on signs that indicate my son may share my unnatural love of chlorinated water.  At 2 ½, his attention span is that of a gerbil that’s gone off Ritalin, but he’ll spend hours splashing and flailing with unbridled glee.  It’s our summer thing.  Daddy’s in charge of the park, but Mama’s got the pool.  As excited as I am to share this with him, I’m already dreading the day when he’s old enough that I no longer have an excuse to jump in with him.  Whatever will I do when he’s too cool to hang poolside with his mom and her overstuffed beach bag full of Elmo towels and Goldfish crackers?  While I do love the water, I’m not a strong swimmer by any means – you’ll never catch me doing a lap.  Without a kid in tow, bystanders will likely confuse my aquatic-enthusiasm with some sort of severe mental disorder.  “Mommy, what’s wrong with that lady?” the children will ask.  “Don’t stare, sweetie.  She might come over here.” Nope, that won’t do.  I’ll have to save it all up until I’m old enough for senior citizen water aerobics.  I’ll simply bide by time by shopping for full coverage bathing suits and floral swimming caps.  But until that day, I’ll doggie-paddle like no one’s watching.

Beware the DBD

It’s summertime – time for BBQ’s, fireworks and all things aquatic!  In addition to sunburn, there is another potential danger lurking, just waiting for the opportunity to ruin your warm weather fun.  I’m referring, of course, to that most irritating and invasive of species, the Douchebag Dad.  There’s one in every lake, pool and pond;  running a little too fast, yelling a little too loud, and taking good-natured roughhousing to dickish new heights.

Who’s that blasting other people’s children in the face with a Super Soaker at point blank range?  Why it’s Douchebag Dad, of course!

A playful little toss into the air may be enough to delight your average toddler, but Douchebag Dad will launch that little sucker 30 feet in the air and shotgun a Coors Light before catching them.

Playful dunking or simulated drowning?  Tomato – tomahto!  Douchebag Dad will almost always make sure to let them up before the bubbles stop.

While there is no marking rendering the Douchebag Dad instantly identifiable, be on the lookout for wrap-around sunglasses and Looney Tunes-themed tattoos.  If you encounter a Douchebag Dad, do not provoke them.  They are not above administering a wedgie or an unwelcomed barrage of fart jokes to an unsuspecting adult.  If you are approached, it is advisable to play dead.  Or pretend to read a book – unless printed on a beer koozie, the written word acts as a natural repellent to the Douchebag Dad.  Much like the common mosquito, the Douchebag Dad is an unavoidable summer pest.  But armed with the proper education, we can greatly reduce their nuisance.  Look sharp, and stay safe out there!