Even as a kid, I hated the playground. I was shy, introverted, non-confrontational, and I hated getting sand between my toes. So stick me in the Lord Of The Flies-type atmosphere that is a playground and you’d get an unhappy child, with tears quite a high likelihood.
I’ve never really lost that feeling. I mean, it’s not like I ever really went to playgrounds from when I was about seven until Weevy was born, but even walking past them I’d get that feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. The playground is where kids can be kids, largely unfettered by adult supervision. And when kids can be kids, I’ve generally found that a lot of them tend to be obnoxious little assholes.
Weevy, thankfully, is not like me. She’s friendly, outgoing, gregarious, and of course — much to my dismay — she loves going to the playground. I’d like to think it’s because I help make sure she has a good time playing there, but I think it’s really because she’s not the timid little wuss I am.
But she’s still only two years old, which means she’s prone to getting taken advantage of by older kids — they try to cut her in line, take toys out of her hand, that sort of thing, with absolutely no sense of subtlety. And that’s where I come in. At some point, I’m going to let her stand up for herself, really I am. But while she’s still one of the smallest kids in the playground, I’m going to watch over her like a fucking hawk.
Occasionally, the realization that I am an Adult, a genuine Authority Figure, on the playground goes to my head and I say some of the things I wish I could have said back when I was a kid without getting my ass kicked. It started innocently enough, when I stopped a kid from basically knocking Weevy over in an attempt to climb over her on a ladder. “You have to wait your turn,” I said sternly, “and when she’s finished climbing, you can go up right behind her.” He meekly obeyed without whining. I thought that was nice, so I said to Weevy, “Say ‘thank you.'” She ignored me, but the KID, who thought I was talking to him, dutifully said “Thank you.”
Well, from then on I kinda became unstoppable. I see some snapperhead standing in a puddle with a demonic look in his eye getting ready to splash Weevy, I give him the look and he stops. But I don’t stop. “Hey, kid, you got some issues, don’t you. Splashing two-year-old girls? Your parents got you in therapy for that?” That sort of thing. I always get met with a blank look, but they always stop whatever hijinx they’re up to.
Friday afternoon I made the mistake of bringing Weevy to the big kids’ playground on 68th St. I don’t mind the tots’ playground which is right next to it, because all the kids are Weevy’s age, pretty much, and most of them haven’t learned how to be too obnoxious yet. But the big kids… forget it.
I was in a cranky mood to begin with, so when we were literally sitting at the top of the slide and a six-year-old boy said, “I’m gonna go in front of you” as he tried to shove past us, I lost it. “You know, kid,” I said, “you’re the reason I hate playgrounds.”
His eyes nearly bugged out of his head. “You HATE playgrounds?”
“Yeah, I really do.”
“Because,” I said, my voice rising, “kids like you try to CUT MY TWO YEAR OLD DAUGHTER ON LINE ALL THE TIME! WHY DO YOU DO THAT, HUH?”
As I was yelling, I accidentally bumped poor Weevy’s head on a metal bar and of course she started bawling. The kid didn’t see it. “Is that why she’s crying?”
“Well, no,” I said, hugging her and stroking her head while she screamed bloody murder. “But just don’t cut in front of us, OK?”
I tried for a couple of minutes to calm her down while the kid impassively looked on. Eventually, he said, “Excuse me, if you’re not going to slide down, may I please slide down?” It has not been in vain, I thought, as I hastily went down the slide with Weevy in my lap. For the record, I did tell the kid that it was very polite and sweet of him to ask like that. I may be a playground vigilante, but show me good manners and I’ll give you credit every time.