It’s beginning to feel like a substantial plurality of my stories are set at playgrounds or parks. This comes as no surprise, really. The playground is the only place I routinely go with my kids for two reasons. First, it exists outside the confines of our house and, despite being quite comfortable, our house can start to feel kind of claustrophobic at times. Second, and more importantly, the playground is the one place that no one holds any real expectations for my children’s behavior as long as they don’t injure anyone or climb up the slides.
On two recent trips, my four-year-old, Jacob, and two-year-old, Bennett, put on display their personalized park-going behaviors for which they are best known in the local community. Namely, Bennett is known for talking loudly and being misunderstood by all the other parents and Jacob is known for targeting one specific mother-child pair right when we arrive, latching on, and clinging to them with the tenacity of a honey badger.
On the first of two playground visits, Bennett was playing on the playground equipment and acting out an elaborate sketch in which he was preparing cookie robots in the oven, bringing them over to the top of the slide, and yelling to me “Daddy! Daddy! Cookie robots! Cookie robots!” That he was indeed saying “cookie robots” was quite clear to me and made perfect sense, but another mom nearby wasn’t so sure.
Other mom: He’s saying took something. But I’m not sure what.
Me: I’m pretty sure he’s saying cookie robots.
Bennett: Yes! Cookie robots! Cookie robots!
Other mom: Maybe cook some more stuff?
I mean, I’m sorry lady, but if you don’t understand cookie robots, I don’t know what to tell you. Have you not seen Despicable Me two thousand times? It was clear as day.
Cook some more stuff? Really? That’s what you’re going with instead? Does he look like an idiot or something? Some people. I gave up talking to her because she was so hopeless. And because I don't like talking to people in general.
On the second visit, a few minutes after we arrived, Jacob locked in on a little girl with white blonde hair playing with her mom and unleashed every ounce of his heat-seeking charm offensive.
Jacob (to other mom): Look at me! I can go down this slide on my tummy!
Other mom: Oh yeah. Nice!
Then she and her little girl wandered away like they were going to get off that easy. Poor naïve souls. Jacob quickly scampered after them.
Jacob: Hey! Hey! Wait for me!
“I’m sorry,” I said to the other mom. “His playground strategy is to latch onto one unsuspecting person and cling to them until they coincidentally have to leave ten minutes after they have arrived. But, congratulations! You’re the lucky one who has been chosen today!”
I didn’t actually say that to her, of course. I just made a mental note of it so I could say it here instead. I thought that was the best option. I was a little intimidated by her anyway. You know, because she was human and all.
Surprisingly enough, the mom quickly decided that they needed to go stand over there now. There, of course, being anywhere else.
Once they took up their position over there and started pretending like that’s what they really wanted to be doing, the mom started slowly sidestepping in the direction of the parking lot, nudging her daughter a little with each step. Then, when Jacob’s back was turned, they dashed off like they were being chased, which, to be fair, they kind of were.
Jacob: Hey, where did my friend go?
Me: I don’t know, bud. I guess they had to leave.
Jacob: I had fun playing with her.
Me: I know. Maybe we’ll see them again next time.
So, if you’re reading other mom, we’ll be back at the park tomorrow morning. And most other mornings after that. Looking forward to seeing you soon!