Parents love the playground because it’s free.
Children love the playground for other reasons. It’s magical place that combines all the things you might already have in your backyard, but there are now different colors and the twirly swirly slide goes around three times instead of two. The playground might have monkey bars too which kids love because they’re called monkey bars, and if you’re lucky there might be something else to hang and climb on. The closer it is to the ape exhibit at the zoo, the more kids will like it.
There are two things that will happen each time we visit the playground, the first is that we will immediately find our new best friend. It can be a girl or boy and they only need to be within a few years in age and have no common interests other than worshipping at the altar of the playground. If they are willing to chase and be chased, swing and push, climb and yell, then they are overly qualified to be our new BFF.
We’ve had play sessions at the playground that last hours with strangers and will leave the grounds in tears, because they just want to have a few more minutes to slide with their new found friend.
Parents enjoy these freshly founded friendships because then we don’t need to watch our kids.
Of course you keep an eye on your kid, you did hear about that one Dateline episode eight years ago where there might have been someone watching children from the bushes at a playground three states away, but you don’t actually have to watch.
Let me express it this way; “Daddy, watch. DADDEEEEEEEE! WATCH THIS!!!!!” Now repeat that 43 times. That’s watching your kids, which can get old. Keeping an eye on your kids, that’s a different story. Now you’re more like a doctor making rounds, just checking to see if the patient is still in his bed (sandbox) and he’s breathing (yep!). Keeping an eye on your kids means you can talk to the other tall people at the playground, those, what are they? Oh, yes, talk to adults. You can also read the book you brought along in hopes that your brood would find kids there, but sometimes they don’t.
I always bring something smart sounding to read like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or The Economist, or my Kindle and if they ask what I’m reading I’ll make something up while trying to read The Hunger Games, again.
Sometimes you’ll pull into the playground and there will be no other kids there. Crestfallen you think to yourself ‘Okay, we’ll give it fifteen minutes, someone is bound to show up.’ but they never do. You end up playing with your kids, climbing through tunnels that lead to feeling like you’ve been eaten by a giant snake and it smells that way too.
Playmates or not, the other thing that always happens at the playground is that someone needs to use the restroom. If you’re there other than the brief three week window in July when the bathrooms are open or functional then your mind begins to race. The first thought you’ll have is whether you can have them pee outside. My kids love to pee outside, standing in the most excitable ways at this strange thrill, but my kids always need to poop too. After that, you think of all the stores you might need to stop at to pick something up. Hardware? No, just got the paint and screws last week. Restaurant? No, we just ate lunch on the way here. So you go to the grocery store.
You then pack up your kids while they wail goodbye to their new best friend and load up the car for the short drive to the store. Each second you get closer to the bathroom their need to go intensifies so that you believe they may actually explode in the backseat. As you navigate the course like a Nascar pro, your thoughts are not about the incredible science of human combustion or mourning the loss, but that you have to clean bodily fluids off the seats and ceiling, again.
Luckily, you make it. The child is able to waddle to the restroom successfully as you tow the other children along like some unwilling skier behind a boat going too fast. After cleaning forty fingers, some twice, you emerge from the bathroom and think ‘well, I may as well pick up some things while we’re here’. You then proceed to fill your cart with milk, bread, and the 42 other staples you need.
After checking out you walk back to the car, looking at your $200 receipt, amazed at how expensive the playground is.