Thursday, March 28, 2013

Navigating Various Types of Playground Parents

As it's now springtime, it warrants mentioning that it might be a good idea to take your kids to a playground once in awhile. It's not as cool as playing with an iPad/Wii/DS/iPhone but it is good old fashioned outdoor time and you feel like you've done your parenting job for the day. The kids leave out of breath, boogers dripping down their faces, and covered in dirt and gubment mulch. Brings a tear to my eye.

But as fun as it is for the children, if you're like me, in between playing 'grumpy old troll under the shaky bridge', you're taking mental notes on the other parents - their mannerisms, their attentiveness, and their FUPA's/receding hairlines. Here's a quick list of what you'll find if your kid just entered 'playground ready' status:

"Helicopter Harry and Shadow Sheila"

I'm breaking no new ground here. Y'all know who these people are. Arrive, disengage child leash from four year old, and proceed to follow little Johnny around a little too intensely. Child on lap on slides, always holding hands, shadowing during a simple game of tag, coaching child through every conversation with other kids, dictating the speed of group tilt-a-whirls while eight other kids mouth the words "Is this guy effin serious?" These people are over-involved in their kids' lives, run to first alongside their child when they make contact in baseball, run to the front of the stage during a recital to choreograph movements because little Mandy is two steps behind, call the teacher within an hour after a 2nd grade math test is administered. These people don't bother me for some reason, since we can all kinda relate. 

Annoyance Factor: 5 out of 10

"Gadget Gloria and Trendy Todd"

"OMG I'm at the park right now and like, my kid wants me to like, push them"

The most common type of parent (unfortunately) is the trendy parent that needs to be plugged in to the outside world during their hour long trip to the park. Smart phone always in hand. Texting their friends about fantasy football or plans for two weeks from now. Child wanders away and gets dropkicked by someone on a swing. Playing a new app while Betsy rocks on her little horsey spring toy. These people irk the shit out of me. I've said it a million times - I'm nothing special as a parent, but I at least try and bring my A game to the playground because kids love it. Put your effin device away before I stick it up your balloon knot. It also means I now have to babysit your sweaty kid, since your mind is elsewhere. He needs me to push him, which distracts me from MY kid, you doofus. My wife has been approached no less than five times in her life to push another person's kid because their mommy was busy on the cell phone. We need to hire snipers to pick off anyone operating a cell phone on playground property and put a dart in the neck of any perpitrator. Zero tolerance policy. 

Annoyance Factor: 9 out of 10

"Fast Friends Francine and Comfortable Curtis" 
Francine is new to the area and doesn't know anybody. She's coming off a rough breakup with her ex-boyfriend, and of course she has a kid and no one to turn to. You thought you could just sit on the bench and watch the kids run around, or push your youngest on the swing in peace. Nope. You need to hear about her alcoholic father, how her uncle molested her when she was ten, how she was raped when she was sixteen, how she got pregnant by her rapist-now-boyfriend when she was nineteen (go figure), and so on and so forth. You listen cause you don't want to be rude or heartless. Curtis starts talking about the perceived low-hanging fruit - sports, butts, and beer. Then he starts showing you pictures of the obese hispanic chick he met at the gym and 'oh by the way he's cheating on his wife with her'. He's a close-talker and reeks of stale cigarette butts, with breath that smells like Bigfoot's dick. Wants to grab a beer sometime since he's ALSO new to the area. "Have you considered going on a date with our methhead acquaintance, Francine, Curtis? Because you're both annoying the shit out of my wife and I." Did I mention you now know about the rash on little Gabriel's nutsack? Or how little Henrietta likes to watch her parents have sex from the crib eventhough she's eight? Thanks for all that information folks. I'm never visiting this playground again. 

Annoyance Factor: 0 out of 10 (WTF? Wasn't expecting THAT!)

"Vicarious Vicky and Wistful Wesley"
Every now and then you see the overly intense parents who have too much energy for their own good. Need to be the coolest ones at the playground, so every other kid sits back and says "I wish that was MY daddy!" They push the tilt-a-whirl at ludicrous speed so that children get launched/jettisoned fifty feet in the air and land in a heap on the pitcher's mound of the softball field. They push the swing so high that their child screams for their life.
They shove children climbing the ladder so that they don't get tagged, and while evading getting tagged, occasionally they fart out of excitement (ok I just wanted to add that for no reason). They sit slack-jawed on the see-saw waiting for a willing partner. They go down the twisty slide headfirst (also farting on the way down) and they pop back up covered in woodchips and go back for more. Love the energy, but this is not your chance to relive your glory days. Also, why the hell do I see goths at the playground? Why are they there? Go study or listen to Muse. I heard the gang-bang was rescheduled to the cemetery down the street. Leave our kids alone. And scrape the black nail polish off your fingernails. Rite-Aid will never hire you.

Annoyance Factor: 7 out of 10

"Fat Creeper/Chester The Molester"
25% of the time you'll see a gentleman on a bench or a swing, smiling idly as if he were midway through a bowel movement. But he doesn't seem to be there with anybody. You keep an eye on him because he has salsa stains on his white v-neck tshirt and he rode his bike there, so right off the bat you're suspicious. He also has a bulge in his black/navy blue Dickies pants anytime a child runs by. You've seen him around town in a beat-up half car/half truck from 1984 with no hubcaps, so he obviously did something sketchy during the Euro Pop era. He smells like dead leaves/mothballs/swamp-ass, so you keep your distance. You see him put his sweatshirt over his groin and put his hands underneath.....wait a minute.....ohhhhhh shit. He's playing with himself. Let's get the hell outta dodge. 

Annoyance/Call The Cops Factor: 10 out of 10

There's your basics. Try not to be any of those people. Your kids need to learn to be independent, fall and get hurt, and enjoy some fresh air and beautiful sunshine. Put your technology away. Sometimes its nice to sit back with your spouse and take it all in while the kids run around. Just don't get too relaxed or people will think you are the token playground creeper and call the cops on you.

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