Regular unwilling listeners to my whinges will know the acute side-effects I suffer from playgrounds. Before having our one, my previous association with them was during my early-teen Linden Village phase when the local excuse for a playground transformed into an exotic cider garden on Friday nights. And occasionally a canvas for my mate to piss out the symbol of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
These days, the shuffle towards our ‘youth centre’ has been replaced by the dreaded dragging of feet towards the newly opened all swinging, all prancing about affair. Ten minutes in, I will be struck by at least two, if not all, of the following dilemmas:
- If two middle-sized children are beating the shite out of each other while their parents are sat looking at them from their car in the car-park, is the adult closest them obliged to adhere to some universal playground child protection policy and intervene OR just pretend they’re not there OR address the issue in polite/passive aggression terms through you own child? “The lovely boys will stop fighting now and let you have your turn”
- How long is it reasonable to wait for a turn on the swing/slide before it’s OK to start shuffling your feet around to indicate mild expectation that they’ll be ‘right with us’, so to speak? When can you start throwing filthy looks? And is it ever OK to address them passive-aggressively through your child by talking about the importance of sharing and/or praising the shit out of her for patiently waiting? Relax, these are all at a fantasy stage. For now.
- Are parents duty bound to smile inanely at other parents, and strike up a conversation while their respective children get competitive on the trampoline?
- Stair-hogging on little slide/castle combos. Should I explain our one is doing an imaginary shit and will be finished up shortly? I made that up. She doesn’t do imaginary shits on stairs. But she did do one in on the kitchen floor the other week. Yes, an imaginary one. After an imaginary ice-cream.
One thing that can be said in the sun’s favour is the permission it gives everyone to hide behind massive shades that devour one’s face in the manner of Jackie O. After she seriously let herself go. More a lifesaver than an accessory. Being incognito from the neck up gives one sufficient time to dive out of the way on clocking someone who gives one a dose of piles from their capacity to make small-talk out of small-talk.
“Oh God, there’s Bobby’s wife”
Shades as a coping mechanism for playgrounds was going so well, I’d enthusiastically taken to keeping them on when it was cloudy. I also wore them on occasional mornings during work as a way of blocking out my colleagues, and was not averse to cooking dinner with them.
But alas the low point came when another parent enquired if I was feeling OK as a nod to me wearing them. In November.
He may talk some shite, but I have to give Bono his dues for keeping them on come hail or high avoidable tax bill.
I wish I was as courageous as him.
There’s a perfectly normal English sentence.