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!

Warning: Contains Strong Parental Language

Brace yourselves, readers, for this most shocking of revelations:  I have a bit of a potty mouth.  No really, it’s true!  I’ve never met a curse word I didn’t like.  I relish combining them in innovative and surprising ways to yield original phrases that are equal parts whimsical and offensive.  I truly revere swearing for the powerful artistic medium it is.  In short, it’s pretty fucking awesome.

Sadly, when we have children, many of our former hobbies must be set aside.  For me, that hobby is swearing.  Despite my personal affinity for filthy language, I’d rather my son not acquire a taste for the habit.  At least until his freshman year of college or he gets his Commercial Driver’s License.  At two years old, he is currently in the “parrot stage”.  He repeats absolutely everything.  I mean he repeats EVERYTHING.  Last week while on the phone with my equally foul mouthed husband, I referred to someone as a nutsack.  Half a second later, I heard a tiny voice happily chanting “NUTSACK!” from the other room.  Yikes.  To be fair though, the woman ahead of me in the supermarket express checkout line with 11 items WAS a total nutsack.  Every time I accidentally let fly an F-bomb, I picture my son a few years down the road, expressing his distaste for crafting snowmen out of cotton balls by calling his kindergarten teacher a fuckwad.  The time to clean it up is long overdue.  Shit.

So here I am, on the hunt for adequate substitutes for my favorite expletives.  No easy task, friends.  But it appears there are some serviceable options out there if you just search hard enough.  I’m talking beyond the “oh shoot”s and “frick”s of the world.  Creatively applied, they can be nearly as impactful as the originals.  One of my current favorites is an agriculturally based substitute for a far more jarring MF-word – you know the one I mean.  Take the following (ever so slightly modified) dialog from 1990’s cinematic gem, Pulp Fiction, as evidence of its effectiveness:

Jules: What country are you from?
Brett: What? What? Wh – ?
Jules: What ain’t no country I’ve ever heard of. They speak English in What?
Brett: What?
Jules: English, melon farmer, do you speak it?
Brett: Yes! Yes!
Jules: Then you know what I’m sayin’!
Brett: Yes!
Jules: Describe what Marsellus Wallace looks like!
Brett: What?
Jules: Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you melon farmer, say what one more time!

Now, isn’t that nice?  Another backup plan that I’ve been using lately is inserting random celebrity names in place of curse words.  “Jennifer Love Hewett, you scared the Kesha out of me!”  Or perhaps, “Jonathan Taylor Thomas, it’s hot out today!”  Or, upon stubbing one’s toe, one might exclaim, “Shia LeBeouf that hurt!”  See?  This one can be hours of fun!  Go ahead, try some of your own.  I’ll wait…

As you can see, I’m still searching for something with the appropriate oomph.  There are certain situations where, whether for emphasis or comedic value, only the old standards will do.  So I’ll forgive myself the fact that I’ll never be able to eliminate all the salt from my vocabulary.  I can only hope my son grows into a man who understands the value of an artfully applied curse word.  And barring that, I’m sure he’ll find his future career as a longshoreman both lucrative and fulfilling.

I’m dying to hear some of your favorite “parent swears” – don’t be shy, lay that shit on me!