I was at the playground the other day. My kids were with me, it wasn’t weird. Actually, it was a bit weird because some of the moms were wearing bikinis (there is a splash area for the kids, but seriously, who wears a bikini to a playground?) and that made the awkward chasm of park conversation between moms and dads all the more daunting to cross. I chose to stand down and concentrate on the task at hand: monkey bars. My eyes were up here, big guy.
So we’re at the monkey bars, and there is some congestion at the front of the line because little Jimmy (name changed to protect his identity — plus, I can’t remember what his name was) is apparently coming to terms with his greatest fear (thus far). If he’s learned anything, and this is pure conjuncture, in his six years of periodic playground frivolity, it is that the monkey bars are a cruel and unforgiving adversary. There were tears, bribes and, eventually, fears realized. To be fair, he kind of set himself up for failure. You gotta believe, Jimmy!
I stood there with my kids and watched the war between boy and bars. Blisters may have been involved.
“You can go,” said Jimmy’s mom in our general direction.
My youngest reached for the rungs. He was smaller in stature than Jimmy, which I only mention because Jimmy, always the charmer, decided to stop crying just long enough to tell my son that he, too, would fail. You see, Jimmy, as he pointed out, is a bigger kid than my five-year-old, and as such, children smaller than him have no chance against the demons that he himself cannot face. It was a fairly impressive monologue.
Suddenly my oldest stepped forward and, I suppose to protect his brother’s pride, stretched out to that first piece of hot, yellow metal. The air was thick with Jimmy’s silence. My son went about three deep and fell to the sands below. He thought about crying, looked at the mud where Jimmy’s tears used to be, and stood up and walked back in our aforementioned general direction.
He glanced at his younger brother and gave him a look that was a fluid mix of I tried, it’s harder than it looks, and give ‘em hell. Then he glanced at Jimmy’s mom as she stood there smiling in her bikini, and I saw a different thought cross his eyes. I made a mental note to discuss it later.
My youngest, the smallest kid in our immediate area, didn’t say a word. He let his actions speak for him:
Then I had him do it again so I could film it.
“I told you I could do it,” he mumbled to no one in particular. You see, by the time the credits rolled Jimmy was gone. Vanished. Only that mental note, slowly floating on the breeze, remained. My boy didn’t care. There was a slide to conquer. He got to the bottom and he went back to the top. You know how the song goes.
It was getting late so I initiated the time-honored parenting staple known simply as the walk and talk.
“You sure were looking at that kid’s mom funny,” I said to the oldest. I braced myself for a myriad of boob-related replies.
“She looked nice,” he said. I held my breath as I suddenly realized I wasn’t ready for this.
“But,” he continued. “Her son was mean. Why did she let him act like that?”
“Oh,” I said. “I think he was just embarrassed. It happens to the best of us. I’m sure he’s a pretty nice kid.”
I started to exhale.
“And why was his mom in her underwear?”
“I don’t know,” I said as I took my boys by the hand and headed towards our now oven of a car. “I didn’t even notice.”