Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Different Kids

On Sunday we ventured out to a park for some fresh air and family time. The weather was mild and it was the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy the sunshine. And we weren't the only ones. Pulling in, it was a little crowded for my taste and I suggested maybe trying another place. It’s not that I don’t like people, more that I don’t like lots of them all at once because I'm mental. 

But my wife gave me that look. The look that says get over it, you’re being a curmudgeon, live a little. It’s one heck of a look. So with that I parked the car and out we went, hand in hand in hand and enjoying the sunshine.

We headed for the slides first, I wanted my wife to see how Simon could go down all himself. But my steps froze at the sound of this god-awful scream. A guttural, primal yelp that had me looking around for a feral cat by the dumpsters. 

But that wasn’t it.

It was a girl, maybe six and she was perched over our heads on the slide like a gargoyle. Once she had our attention she was off, slipping down and then peeking back, letting go with another um, sound. Okay, I thought, she’s an odd one. I glanced around for a parent or adult or perhaps a mother bobcat missing a human.

I tried to ignore the girl, I really really tried to ignore her. But she kept up the routine, with the grunting and growling so hard that her face turned a deep shade of maroon. And if that wasn't enough, she fell right in behind us, barking and bellowing or whatever the whole way along. At one point my son, not yet two, looked up to her and said, “too loud.” 

I had to agree, and by then I was a wreck of nerves. This little demon girl wouldn't leave us alone. As it turned out, the growling thing was a some kind of game she was playing with her older brother, who we found lurking in the shadows.

So then there were two little beasts.

Let me take a moment to say that while I think it’s great that two kids can be imaginative and pretend to be dragons instead of sitting around watching television or ipads, I'd prefer that they be creative somewhere else. But that wasn't happening because kids just naturally gravitate to my wife. Being a teacher, she's great with them and knows the proper way to speak to them and diffuse situations. Me? I tend to take more of a Billy Madison approach. 

It's not so much that I'm immature, it's just that--whatever--I only wanted to spend some time outside with my kid without being roared at every few seconds. I don't think that's too much to ask. And besides, the last thing I needed was for my two year old to pick up on some very unnerving demon dragon growl that made me want to drop these two kids off at the nearest church. 

My wife told me to calm down—to be an adult. After a self-imposed timeout I realized that she was right, I was getting way too worked up about the whole thing. We couldn't control every environment our kid entered. So while these two dragon kids hovered over us, being sketchy and making these horrible sounds, I would force myself to grit and bear it. I reentered the playground calmly, determined to get along and play nice. 

Another roar from the dragons. Oh look at the time, we really gotta get going. A few more passes down the slide and we were out of there.

Did I handle the situation appropriately? Maybe not. Okay, probably not. But the situation was new territory for me. I can't help the urge to protect. And you know what? My son is only two, so yes, I can control his environment. For now at least.

On the way home from the park, my wife (who sees different kids all day long), saw things differently. And what she said made me think. (Don't you just hate that?). Where I saw a little girl being weird and nerve wracking, she saw a bright, imaginative kid craving adult attention. Where I was annoyed and only thought of my own discomfort, she engaged the little dragon girl, urging her on. In fact, by the time we left the park she was chatting up a storm and showing us the other side of the playground like a little tour guide. 

I sighed, wishing I’d done things differently. Those are the little moments where I need to be the adult. Those kids were acting out for attention and would it really ruin my day just to loosen up and go along for a while?  And it won't be long before my kid wants to be a dragon or a tiger, or maybe a mime. Probably not a mime. But that's not the point. the point is that it's not just about my own kid, but every kid. We're all in this together. And we have to share this playground, even with the dragons..

But still, if I hear one of them say"O'Doyal rules!" well then, all bets are off...


  1. Haha! Awesome. I'm with you on this one. I'm a curmudgeon, I guess.

  2. Thanks Sarah, I guess curmodgeons stick together. Wait, that doesn't make sense...