Heading to the playground was formerly a fairly predictable affair in Joshua’s younger years. We would arrive, he would:
- Go on the swing for just short enough for you to still have a modicum of feeling in your arms
- Ignore every other child in the playground
- Then go on the slide, generally descend pretty slowly due to putting his arms out / the slide being coated in years worth of encrusted toddler goo
- Then climb things designed for older children for a while, narrowly avoiding disaster like a miniature stuntman
- Then get a bit tired
- Finally scream the place down when it was time to go home.
It was a fairly standard routine. Everyone knew where they stood.
Then he got a bit older and things started to change. Most notably he started to realise that other children weren’t just there to be ignored – he could actually interact with them. He also started potty training, which always adds a touch of spice to even the most mundane of family situations. Nothing focuses the mind quite like a toddler taking an expected dump in a public place with no access to toilet facilities.
Our more recent routine has therefore become thus:
- ‘Daddy, look! There are children here that have come to see me’
- Attempt to say hello to all children in 1 mile radius, regardless of their age / activity
- Choose 1 little girl and follow them around from one thing to the next until they leave the area
- Go on the swing for just short enough for you to still have a modicum of feeling in your arms – this is now longer given how buff your arms have become from 3 years of pushing an increasingly heavy child to increasingly higher heights
- Then go on the slide, generally descend pretty slowly due to putting his arms out / the slide being coated in even more years worth of encrusted toddler goo
- Alternatively, depending on the park, choose to repeatedly go on slides that appear to have been designed as practice tracks for Olympic Skeleton riders and take just under an hour to climb the 1.4 million steps to the snow-capped summit
- Climb things designed for his age in a variety of increasingly challenging fashions, narrowly avoiding disaster like a miniature stuntman
- Never ever get tired
- Have an accident (of varying descriptions) scream the place down and demand to go home.
You then have the challenging task of getting the slightly fatigued toddler home without him falling asleep in the car. If he does fall asleep on the journey home you are then left with the impossible choice of:
a) waking him up in the driveway, so he can throw the mother of all tantrums, because he really, REALLY doesn’t like being woken up from a 10 minute nap
b) leaving him to sleep and almost definitely piss through the car seat, resulting in the mother of all tantrums, because no one likes being woken up covered in their own piss.
So you are required to employ the kinds of sleep deprivation techniques normally found in gritty films where people have water thrown at them and death metal played to them at full volume, whilst someone pulls out their fingernails. Perhaps not quite to that extreme, but still, you are looking at things like:
- Repeatedly saying ‘Are you OK, Joshua?’
- Winding the rear window down and back up again
- Turning the music up a bit
- Reaching behind you to lovingly twat his foot every few minutes
- Attempt to make conversation about diggers / traffic lights / other cars / cheese
Given neither of his parents have a great track record of staying awake in cars (his mum whilst a passenger on long journeys, his dad whilst a driver on the M4!) it’s hardly surprising that these amateur tactics don’t always do the trick.
Park life will never be the same again…