And I thought Bex took forever to get ready . . .
One morning, earlier this month, around eleven o’clock in the morning, we decided to take Luke on his very first trip to the neighborhood park. Somehow, we didn’t walk out the front door until three-thirty in the afternoon. Did I mention that the park is around a seven minute walk away from our apartment?
A younger, slightly naive, but well rested version of myself would have been wearing a hole in the rug by the front door around eleven-thirty. You would think being married, I would be used to or even come to expect additional prep time. I’ve certainly gotten better about it but I still don’t understand it. Call me crazy but when I decide to go someplace, I just get up and go. I know, I make it sound so simple.
So after we make a plan, Bex takes off her shirt (don’t get too excited, she was feeding the baby). Normally, I’m thrilled about this but didn’t we just say we were going to go the park? Ok, no big deal. This gives me time to take a dump, maybe brush my teeth, but probably not both. We all know which one I’m picking.
By the time I come back out to the living room, Bex is in the middle of changing the baby’s diaper. Great, perfect timing huh. Bex says she’ll be ready to go soon. Why don’t I go pack the diaper bag. I look at my watch, it’s only noon. Still not bad.
By 12:15, I have the diaper bag packed and I’m tying my shoes. Bex pops her head in to tell me that she’s gonna change her clothes real quick, could I watch the baby. Sure,no problem. No sooner do I walk into the living room than he spits up his lunch all over himself. So I quickly take to cleaning up the town drunk and changing his clothes.
Around this time, I hear the shower running. My watch reads 12:50. Bex gets out of the bathroom around 13:30, but really who’s counting. It seems like we’re finally ready to go when we both hear the loudest, wettest, fart come out of the smiling baby next to us. Luke’s smile quickly fades into a scowl and the scowl turned to tears. It’s a commentary on his wet diaper. Another delay of game. Finally we are ready to go, if I can just figure out how to unfold his stroller.
After fumbling with the “easily collapsable” stroller for a ten minutes, I finally have Luke’s chariot ready. We carry him, the diaper bag, the stroller, and the dog down the stairs, and Bex gives me a funny look. She says it’s chilly, I should go back up to our apartment and get sweaters for all of us. I wonder if she forgot that we live in Southern California. A cold day here hovers around the low 70’s. I don’t know if anyone under eighty would classify that as sweater weather.
Anyway, the four of us were finally on our way to park! Our dog Zoey led the way. She’s a little maltese with a big personality. I like to think of her as a Wal Mart greeter. Maybe I’ll buy her one of those blue vests someday. Whenever we go out for a walk, she has to introduce herself to everyone we cross paths with, whether they like it or not. Then she has to introduce them to me. I think we made a dozen friends just on the walk alone.
Upon arriving at the park, something strikes me that I’m not sure I was even slightly aware of before I was a dad. I never realized how many homeless people hung out at city parks before. None of them make eye contact with us or even look in our direction but it puts me on the defense. Then the guilt kicks in. They’re people too after all. Besides, I’m sure one of two of them would appreciate being offered a clean diaper. We certainly have enough to go around these days. The bums stay mostly towards the street anyways. The real danger lurks at the heart of the park.
We heard them before we saw them. High pitched war cries. Howls of pain and laughter. Then I see two groups of four or five each just charging at each other, full speed. Some of them brandish long sticks or chunks of wood that they’ve found. A couple of the older ones carry cups of ice and water, When the groups collide, so do the weapons. Ice chunks are whipped through the air, pelting their victims across the cheeks. Sticks and wood clash. Someone falls out and starts to sob, Instantly, the groups disperse as if they were never there, leaving their fallen comrade behind. As I watch the carnage, just one question comes to mind. Where the hell are their parents?
Other peoples children are terrifying. I half expected to see little Malichi leadingthese Children Of The Corn on their psychotic rampage across the tennis courts. These violent groups of toddlers and preteens have overrun the play ground equipment in their simultaneous reenactment of the Lord of the Flies, Battle Of The Five Armies, and the French and Indian war. Even to a grown man like me, it’s terrifying. It’s enough to make me want to homeschool Luke. On second thought, he will have to deal with other children sooner or later, whether I like it or not. I guess it’s my job to prepare him for the savages in the real world. My next question then, is ten days old too young to start teaching him self defense.
Bex and I make it past the warrior children relatively unscathed and find a picnic table off in a quiet corner of the park. From there, we people watch, trust me the park is a great place to do that. You see so many colorful people. For example, there was a toddler who had just ditched the training wheels on his first bicycle. He was uneasy and all over the road. If I was a cop, I would have administered a breathalyzer test. He was having the time of his life though, screaming his head off with a “Woo Hoo!” all the way down the sidewalk.
On the ball diamond, there were three boys playing catch. One boy in particular was just too into it. He made dramatic wind ups when he pitched and lept into dives to make a catch. The best part was his foul language when he missed a catch. I’ve never heard an eight year old drop so many f-bombs in such a short time. Relax dude. It’s a game of catch. I’d hate to see how stressed he got over real games.
That’s when the ridiculousness of it all hits me. We just went through this whole production so we could take our ten day old son to the park. It’s not like he was going to hit the swings or take a plunge on the slide. I certainly wasn’t going to let him get mixed up with those stick wielding mutants. We spent three hours of prep and seven minutes of travel time to take a five minute stroll, and a quick respite at a picnic table (without an actual picnic, mind you). I know we say we do all of this for him but he never even left the stroller. These outings will be more fun when he’s older. Right now it’s just ridiculous. It’s preposterous.
I think we’ll do it again tomorrow.