There’s something so magical about that first, perfect day. Just warm enough to venture outdoors without coats, but, without the oppressive heat of summer. The sun shines and children beg to return to the parks.
Just one problem. I hate the park. I’m not talking about your general run of the mill distaste. I mean, hate. Burning flames of the sun hatred.
With our first, we have delightful video of her swinging at our local playground with gleeful clapping and the sing-song voices of adoring parents in the background. Then we had our second and we have sporadic pictures of us attempting to picnic at a park while I hold our son and my husband chases after our daughter. Then, our third arrived and mild park inconvenience grew to danger. With four, the park is a hot, plastic death trap. As soon as we arrive, they explode into four, opposite stations while I stand stunned and screaming, “STAY WHERE I CAN SEE YOU!” A nearby park bench taunts me implying that one day I may very well sit here, but, not today or any day soon. Thanks for the reminder, you wooden asshole.
As one of my children attempts to climb a completely vertical ten foot rock wall cushioned by pavement, I’ll find the other about to be pushed down a slide by a child I call Lucifer for the rest of our visit. Generally, one is hiding in or behind a tree, which is great, because I’m not getting any cardiovascular exercise except being scared to near death.
None of our local parks are fenced so I have the option of letting them run toward a busy street, a bustling parking lot or, going for gold, and allowing them to play in whatever standing water can be found on the park premises. As I become “that mother” yet again, I make a mental note to google the chances of contracting malaria as the toddler runs over, screaming, to alert me that Lucifer has thrown sand in her eyes. Oh, and no, that isn’t a Lincoln Log in the sandbox.
I see mothers chatting with hot cups of coffee in their hands. They see me leaping over wood chips and tire swings to grab the baby while a child comes barreling down a slide she’s trying to climb.
After years of botched attempts, I am waving the white flag of surrender. While it may be a place of solace for several parents, it is nothing but a land of unruly equipment and wild beasts to me. All parks are the Jurassic Park. Gnashing of small teeth, injuries and a good chance I may just be eaten by a wild animal while in the park restroom. And, just like Jurassic Park, a good time in theory. In reality, the survivors must be helicoptered off of the island.
But even with my near perfect record of park disasters, I am reminded almost daily that the park is a quintessential part of childhood. It is the go-to suggestion of parents and children alike. Many a potential playdate have gone array with an almost audible record scratch as their suggestion of, “Let’s take the kids to the park!” is met with my, “Oh, the park. I try to avoid it like the bubonic plague.” It is always in these moments that I wonder if looks can truly kill and if I will ever sit on a park bench with a beverage, a book and complete assurance that everyone will leave with all bones intact.
Until then, we’ll be in the backyard. Happily fenced. Lucifer free.