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Screams filled the air and dirt flew around him. Small bodies were running, crawling, and climbing in every direction. As he observed the chaotic scene laid out in front of him in almost a trance-like state, what seemed like a cool mist of an ocean wave snapped him back into focus.
“Oops, sorry daddy,” coughed his son, Grant, choking slightly after chugging water from his Paw Patrol bottle with too much enthusiasm.
Wiping a water/spit mixture from his cheek he replied “Let’s try to keep it in your mouth next time, I’m not a fan of wearing what you drink. Now go play.”
They’d been at the playground for about ten minutes, but to him it felt like ten years. Obviously he knew any playground time was a good thing. Any chance in the days of tablets and Netflix to get a kid outdoors to burn off what seems to be an unlimited amount of energy was hands down a positive occurrence.
But, there was only so many high-pitched screams or only so many games of “Hey daddy, try to catch me” that he could take mentally or physically before losing his sanity. Still, watching his offspring sprint around screaming like a psychopath was still preferable over watching yet another episode of Peppa Pig.
“Ok buddy, why don’t you give the slide a try today? Looks like that girl is having fun” he said, motioning to a girl who had just careened down the biggest slide like a drunk bobsledder.
Grant stared at him.
“Nope, I’m just going to watch” replied a stone-faced Grant, staring at the slide like it was a pubic hair in his food.
Due to a semi-traumatic experience in his younger years, Grant had quite the aversion to slides. In his opinion anything over about 6ft tall was dangerous territory.
“Come on Grant, that slide looks like a ton of fun” he said as another kid flew out of the end of the slide with more momentum than their little body knew what to do with. “I know it’s a little big, but that just means it’s more fun. Just trust me, give it a shot.”
“I like the slide at the park with all the rocks better.”
Well that slide is like 5ft tall and last time we were there we found a used condom right next to it, so we’re not going back there. This slide is almost three times my height and looks fucking awesome
“Grant, trust me, this slide is 100 times more fun than that slide. How about I go down first and you can follow me?”
“I’m just going to go play over there.”
Defeated, his gaze followed his son as he ran to new adventures that weren’t going down this beast of a slide. “Over there” was by a small climbing structure in which two boys that seemed to be near his age were digging in dirt and throwing it up in the air like savages. Grimacing at how much of a disaster bath time would be tonight, he watched as his son gleefully joined in, before leading the trio into a toddler-version of fictional cops & robbers.
Grant ran over to the bench he was occupying to breathlessly throw him his jacket and say “Dad we’re catching criminals!”
Well bud, unless you’re trying to take down that weird dude by the picnic table with a public-masturbator look about him and no obvious affiliation to any of the kids running around, good luck finding any criminals
“Sounds thrilling, champ,” he replied, as he kicked back on the bench, half-watching his kid and half-partaking in some quality people watching. He’d learned early on that playgrounds were an underrated people-watching spot.
They weren’t airports or shopping malls by any stretch of the imagination, but I mean, where else were you going to find a guy wearing boots and camo gym shorts deciding that the best place to light up a cigar was at the picnic area of a children’s play area? Can’t beat that kind of action.
He stared at cigar-puffing camo gym short guy from afar with half-incredulity and half-jealousy for the lack of fucks it takes to light up at a playground. Couldn’t help but respect the man, as it was the pro’s pro of not getting anyone to talk to you moves to rip a cigar.
Realizing Grant & Co. had relocated to the other side of the playground, he decided it was time to move off his bench, as it didn’t provide him an ideal line of sight to make sure his child wasn’t about to fall off a piece of playground equipment or begin destroying public property. It had only taken one instance of his child finding a large piece of stone and trying to throw it down a slide to realize that children were dangerous terrorists and needed to be watched as such.
As he strutted past the seesaw, Grant and one of his comrades in fake criminal justice ran up to him.
“Daddy I wanna go on the swings!”
Thrilled at this next activity, he replied, “Fantastic, lets go.”
For a child Grant’s age, swinging was his favorite lazy dad activity. He could just stand there pushing him with one arm, not worried about where the hell his kid was running off to or what he was climbing on. He could even scroll Twitter if he really felt like being a bum. Swinging was always a fantastic choice.
“Push me higher!” screamed Grant.
“You’ll get up high eventually,” replied his Twitter-scrolling father as he gave him the same half-ass effort push as before, “I’ll push you higher in one min-…in one…”
Feeling an imposing gaze upon him, he’d looked up and over at the swing next to Grant and noticed the other boy he’d been playing with sitting motionless on the swing, no parent in sight, staring at him. Not with an Oliver Twist-style “Please sir, push my swing too” but with a much more creepy, “Push this swing or I’ll gut a feral cat and leave it on your porch”-type glare that shook him to the core.
Fully intimidated by a small child, he pocketed his phone and began pushing both children, looking around to see if the child’s parent might come relieve him from double duty at some point.
As quick as he’d decided to swing, Grant changed course. “Stop the swing daddy, I want to go play.”
Semi-relieved that he could stop pushing this small stranger, he relented. “Alright, go have fun,” but as soon as he stopped the other boy he let out an odd complaining noise that sounded like a cat wearing a Chewbacca mask. Both parties locked eyes and the child said “You better keep pushing mister.”
“Uh, where’s your..I mean..yeah sure whatever kid.”
Each time he tried to slink away, the child made the heinous noise again, so there he stood pushing this child on the swing ride of his dreams. While he grappled with being mentally defeated by someone who might not even be potty trained, he also was trying to keep an eye on Grant at the same time.
Across the playground he spotted his offspring, standing up at the top of the slide, deep in thoughtful consideration at undertaking his greatest fear. Still steadily pushing this borderline monster, he was faced with a choice. Risk unleashing this child’s fury, or miss his son conquering his fear.
Mid-push, he made a break for it. The child, swinging freely, let out its record-scratch worthy sound as he half-jogged across the playground (no one wants to be the grown man sprinting across a playground). He skidded to stop just as Grant gave himself a slight jolt down the slide and started skidding down with a facial expression like he was falling off the Eiffel Tower.
He rolled off the end of the slide, hit the dirt, and popped up right away. He stared at his dad in shock.
“That was great!! Can I do it again??” Grant exclaimed.
“Sure buddy, go for it!” He couldn’t have been more relieved that his days of being the father goading his kid to go down the slide were over. The awkward trip to the playground had proven worth it, until he heard a voice from behind him.
“HEY ASSHOLE! What’d you do to my kid??”
He wheeled around and was face-to-face with none other than weird swing kid and his father, cigar puffing camo shorts guy. .
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