Welcome to Thunderdome

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I know how the zombie apocalypse is going to start. Well, let me rephrase that. I know where the zombie apocalypse is going to start. At the crappy little indoor playground inside my town’s mall. Picture a half-a-dozen foam/plastic structures in the center of the mall’s food court—a playhouse, a slide, a bridge, a raft, rocks—scattered around a small area with a semi-soft foam floor. The whole thing is encircled by soft benches. There’s only one way in and one way out—an entry way marked by an automatic dispenser of hand sanitizer, like some sort of heavy-handed element of foreshadowing in a bad dystopian sci-fi flick.

Inside this “play circle,” roughly 78 children, all under the age of 5 are running mad while their parents sit on the benches updating their Facebook statuses and drink Diet Cokes from oversized Chik-Fil-A cups.

Basically, this playground is a cacophony of communicable diseases and pre-school angst. It’s not my favorite place to take the kids. In my head, every one of those little bastards running around that playground has pink eye. And the violence is astonishing. It’s like Thunderdome.

The last time we were there, this one little kid, maybe three or four years old, was walking around, systematically slapping other kids. He’d slap one kid, wait for their reaction, then walk to the other side of the play zone and slap another kid, wait for the reaction…like he was performing some sort of sociopathic experiment.

And don’t even get me started on the biting. Lord, there was so much biting (which is exactly how the Zombie apocalypse will begin—playground biters with pink eye).

And the parents, as a whole, were just oblivious to the whole bloody mess. One mother was so preoccupied with knitting or twitter or whatever it is that mothers do to mentally escape, that she didn’t realize her baby had actually escaped Thunderdome. I watched a good Samaritan scoop up the baby as it was crawling past the Asian Express, then walk around the food court for five minutes asking everyone, “is this your baby?” “Is this your baby?” Finally, she found the right disinterested mother, who took the baby back so calmly (and without even a thank you) that it made me think this wasn’t her first time losing a child.

Yeah.

So this is where my kids like to go when it’s 38 degrees and raining outside. I’m conflicted every time they see it’s crappy outside and say, “hey dad, let’s go to the mall!” On the one hand, my kids are gonna get pink eye. It’s only a matter of time. On the other hand, it’s kind of cool to see ground zero for the zombie apocalypse. Plus, watching a bunch of moms lose their kids in public makes me feel like a pretty good dad.

I’m not sure why my kids like it, though. The playground equipment is kind of lame (a foam raft? What are they supposed to do, pretend to row a boat?), and, as I’ve said, the other kids are pretty violent. It’s almost guaranteed that one or both of my children will come out there bleeding a little bit. Maybe my kids are exorcising some sort of suburban angst, like Fight Club for little kids. Their lives are so comfortable and numbing, what with Sheriff Callie and juice boxes and soccer practice, that they need a little raw violence just to feel alive.

I get it. Who doesn’t like to get slapped around by a three-year-old sociopath every once in a while?

 

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Hop Scotch…Or Just a Scotch, Please

You know what your local playground needs? A margarita machine. And if you’re installing a margarita machine, you may as well go ahead and put in a fully stocked bar. Obviously, there would be some added liability issues with a playground that had happy hour, but the pros completely outweigh the cons. Don’t believe me? Read my latest blog at Breathe, and be convinced.

 

 

Booby Traps

We had one of those beautiful days where the kids were super cute. Cooper called Baby Jesus on my iPhone and Addie ran from her shadow at the park. They said “thank you” when I handed them juice and they built a block tower together without coming to blows. Perfect little angels. Of course, they were just setting a booby trap. They were lulling me into a false sense of security and would at some point during the day launch an all out assault of toddler chaos. Think Nazi Germany wooing Russia before invading them.

Yes, I just compared my children’s subterfuge to that of Nazi Germany. Hang out with two three-year-olds long enough, and you’ll find it’s not that much of a stretch.

There was no way to tell when the kids would turn on me, only that they would as soon as I let my guard down. Perhaps while I tried to sneak in a quick shower, they’d pull the blender out of the cabinet and make a “peanut butter and daddy’s wallet” smoothie.

In the meantime, the sneaky munchkins kept being cute, smelling our rosemary bush and saying it smelled like spaghetti. Holding hands and saying, “it’s a beautiful day.” Trying to hula-hoop together in the same hoop. Adorable! Real melt your heart kind of shit.

Honestly, it was a maddening day waiting for the bomb to go off. It was like being stuck in the first hour of a Hitchcock movie–all anticipation and foreshadowing and no violence.

And then, the violence came.

It happened at nap time. Well, it was supposed to be nap time. I turned my back on them for 12 seconds and they used their milk to grease their crib railings to facilitate a quicker escape. Without a proper nap, they were free to fulfill their true toddler nature, which began with a sizable tantrum because I would not let them finger paint on the couch and ended with both of my kids peeing off the top of the slide at the playground. No shit. The night ended with me wondering how much trouble I would get into if I duct-taped them to their beds.

I’m still not sure about the legality of that parenting technique, but I’m sure if I explained myself to Social Services, maybe showed them a few videos, they’d understand.