It has been a weekend of WEIRD playground interactions.
It all started on Friday. On Friday evening we were in a playground, and Alice wanted to go down the slide, except she couldn't go down the slide because there was a baby sitting at the end of the slide, chaperoned by his two big sisters. I said to the two big sisters: "Would you mind moving your little brother?" and they looked at me with a blank, dead-behind-the-eyes stare and did nothing - which left me in a predicament. Alice was waiting patiently at the top of the slide, and the zombie baby was at the bottom. I considered moving zombie baby, but I believe that picking up strange zombie babies and plonking them elsewhere in playgrounds is frowned upon, right? I looked around for a supervising parent; there was none to be seen. I mean, NO JUDGEMENT HERE – my five-year-old son was standing in a pirate ship at the exact same time shouting, "Fuck you, me fucking hearties," so I'm hardly mother of the year, am I? And so, there was a stand-off. A prolonged, awkward, blank-staring stand-off, which made me feel tired, and a bit sad.
And then, on Saturday, we went to my new favourite café, which scores extra points for having a small playground attached. This café also has two enormous Dalmatians at its entrance. Not real Dalmatians; they’re made from a lightweight resin, or something, and they come all the way from Italy, because I saw this on Instagram. I’m quite taken with these Dalmatians, as are my children.
Anyway, as we drove into the carpark, I saw two boys – probably around Ben’s age, like maybe 11 or 12 – standing at the top of the slide and THROWING the Dalmatians down it. I sighed, and said to Paul, “I’m gonna have to fix this, aren’t I?” And he sighed and said yes, yes I was. With no parentals in sight, I marched up to the boys and said STOP THAT, while trying to pretend that my voice wasn’t shaking. They stopped that, yes, but they also – and this is the part that leads me to believe that they may have had a collective death wish – put out their arms and did the “what the fuck’s it got to do with you” shrug. Ohhhhhhhh, my friends. I am all too familiar with the what-the-fuck’s-it-got-to-do-with-you shrug. My husband knows that I am all too familiar with the WTFIGTDWY shrug. My children know that I am all too familiar with the WTFIGTDWY shrug. They also know that very, very few things cause the red mist to descend quite like the WTFIGTDWY shrug given by an 11/12-year-old boy. My husband and my children cowered while I marched into the café and DOBBED on those little fuckers, and shook my head and said, “WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?” just like a proper mum would, and not one whose five-year-old was currently pissing in a sand dune.
You’d think that would be enough of playground weirdness, wouldn’t you? But no. On the way home, we stopped at another playground (my kids love playgrounds with the same degree of passion that I hate them) (playgrounds, not my kids). At this playground, there was a small boy sitting on a swing and saying forlornly, “Please push me. Please won’t somebody push me.” Well, a sadder sight I have never before seen. I told Paul to go and push him (I needed to check Instagram). Paul said no, because what would happen when the mother finally emerged from her crack den and saw a strange but handsome man pushing her kid on the swing? He said this was largely frowned upon, and he seemed to be talking from bitter, bitter experience, so I went with it. Poor swing boy.
But it gets better! Because then, watching our own children on the flying fox, we spotted another boy – aged around 7 or 8, I reckon – stuck at the top of the very low monkey bars. Oh, he wept. “Mummy, help me,” he kept weeping, over and over. I told Paul to go and get him down, but he said no, because what would happen when the the mother finally emerged from her crack den and saw a strange but handsome man helping her son down from the monkey bars? He said this was largely frowned upon, and he seemed to be talking from bitter, bitter experience, so I went with it. Poor monkey-bar boy. He was there for so long, weeping and wailing, until another woman came along and said, “Mummy’s not coming. She said she doesn’t want to help you,” and got him him down herself. Good on her.
We went home shortly after that, very confused but quietly satisfied that – even though our children were half-dressed and had eaten their lunch on the floor of the café – we are fucking top-notch parents, after all. Go us.