Today I have spent a great deal of time in the company of young people. And by young, I don’t mean pre-law students, I mean multiple shorties under seven. I took three of them to an indoor playground for two hours where I was subjected to the smell of dirty diapers, the fear of contracting Hantavirus and the Alvin and the Chipmunks’ classic, “It’s Christmas Don’t Be Late. I shouldn’t have to tell you that it’s July so this was a triple assault on my sanity. Are there no laws on the books regulating these fucking rodents? If not, there should be so call your councilman!
Luckily, there is a huge silver lining to this. I discovered that indoor playgrounds are a great opportunity to pat yourself on the back for a great job parenting so far. These indoor playgrounds are literally crawling with aggressive shorties. This was the second time in as many visits that a kid almost got kicked out for random attacks on other toddlers. In both incidents the mother/caregiver was completely checked out and seemed oblivious to how badly behaved her kid was. The first time I had to get involved because Sadie was getting shoved to the ground repeatedly by a little tyrant. Now normally when Sadie gets pushed, there’s a good chance she started it. Sadie is certainly not at the top of Santa’s list of nice girls right now but when Mattie came to tell me Sadie was getting “hit by a big boy” and I flew over to investigate I saw this 45 pound 3-year-old shove her to the ground unprovoked. He thought no one could see him because he was inside a little kitchenette but I had poked my head through the window and caught the little shit in the act.
Here’s the thing: no matter how much you may question the parenting decisions you make, your kid can’t help come out smelling like a rose next to a kid who goes around whacking other kids on the head with plastic gardening tools.
If you want to grade your parenting prowess on a curve, head to an indoor playground and stay away from anything high brow like museums or botanical gardens. Hell, even Chili’s. Just when I’ve gotten a little cocky at a Chili’s because my kids are sitting quietly coloring on their kids menus and not loudly pounding their silverware on the table like the kid at the next table whose mom is texting, is exactly the moment I look down and find that both my twins are under the table making a mountain with their mac & cheese. But hey, I always leave a good tip. 5% is generous right?
I spend an inordinate amount of time questioning my parenting: Do I give enough time-outs, too many time-outs, serve enough organic food; should I force my kids to eat quinoa even though I can barely pronounce it and mostly hate people who love it; do I allow my kids enough time to be bored, too much time to be bored; am I correctly teaching compassion, understanding, or am I teaching too much compassion and not enough kick-ass defend yourself attitude? Is Elby too young for Ivy and Bean? Too old for The Velveteen Rabbitt? Should I force Mattie and Sadie to sit through me reading “Guess How Much I Love You” because I love it even though they aren’t interested? Is it my fault that Matilda almost got a perler bead stuck up her nose yesterday?
I don’t allow these questions to paralyze me the way they did when Elby was a baby. I make my choices and move on with as much grace and confidence as I can muster. But when Sadie attempts to bite Matilda after not having done it in a year or Matilda whines without stop for 24 hours straight I can’t help but wonder if I forgot to read the right parenting book.
But then, I go to the indoor playground and get to walk out with my head held high! My parenting rules! What a high!
Just make sure you check for coupons.