…at a stranger on the playground

Fatherhood changes a person. I have noticed many of these changes, including the fierce protective instinct toward my little Princess (age 1.5). I’d punch a lion if it threatened her.

There’s a playground in our neighborhood that the little Princess likes to visit. We’d go twice a day, everyday, if she had her way. I’m lazy and hate being outside around other kids so we compromise and go once a day when the weather is good.

While we’re at the park, I do my best to be a good father. I follow Princess everywhere, helping her climb the playground equipment, protecting her from the kids on scooters who  aren’t paying attention, and keeping tabs on her interactions with the other kids and adults. Most of the other parents (especially those with kids in the 1-3 age range) do exactly the same thing. I like that. It means that if two kids are about to get into trouble with each other (one taking away another’s snack, or one is about to accidentally knock another one down, for instance) both parents can gently correct the behavior and make sure that everyone is having a good time. Awesome.

There is one kid that is never supervised. He’s two. I first encountered him at the beginning of the summer when he was attempting to climb up the big kid’s slide while other children, including Princess, were waiting to go down. Since no one was with him, no one was moving him out of the way. I asked him to move a couple of times (a little sterner each time). The Little Shit never did, so I just moved Princess to the other slide and let him be.

Over the summer Princess and I had several other encounters with Little Shit. Each time he was running around unsupervised. A couple of times he was climbing the slide, or didn’t want to wait to slide down until the bottom was clear. A couple of times he pushed past Princess as she was trying to climb up the equipment. Once I had to chase him out of the swings area so that I could push my daughter without fear of hitting LS in the head.

Let’s pause to be clear about something at this point. I’m constantly frustrated with LS and his behavior at the playground, but I know that it’s not his fault. He’s too young to really know what’s safe and what isn’t and how to interact with the other kids. He should have a parent with him, watching out and keeping him (and, therefore, everyone else) safe. It’s his negligent parents that piss me off.

About 6 weeks ago I figured out who LS’s mom is. He was running around and kept going into the swings area. The Jr High kids who were in there kept chasing him out. Princess and I were climbing around on the jungle gym nearby, so I didn’t really see what happened next. I think that he ran in again and the older kids didn’t see him. He was either hit by the swing or hit his head on the swing set while veering to avoid the swings. All I know was that he starting screaming and ran out. A minute later he came back, being carried by his mother who demanded to know what had happened. I made a mental note of who she was and kept out of it.

LS’s mom is a woman I’ve seen at the park many many times. She’s always sitting on her fat ass, talking loudly on the phone and not really paying attention to what’s going on around her. Fuck her for making the rest of us watch her kid cause she’s too goddamn lazy to do it herself.

Okay, that’s enough prelude.

Things came to a head last week.

Princess has begun climbing the ladder up to the slide. It’s about 4 feet high, and at the top is a largish platform that leads to more steps and then a bridge on the way the slide (you know, standard playground fare). She’s pretty good at the ladder, though she needs a spotter since her feet can slip sometimes. I always stand right behind her with my hands ready to catch her. We do this at least 4-5 times on every visit to the playground now.

On the day in question, she began to climb and then I looked up to see LS already on the platform, coming towards the top of the ladder. Precedent has taught me that he wasn’t going to pay attention to what he was doing. So I told him (sternly) to stay back. He kept coming. I put my hand up and pushed him back and told him to stay back again.

Let’s pause again. I call it a push, because that’s really the best word for it. It wasn’t a shove. Think of pushing a gallon of milk back from the edge of the counter to prevent a spill, and needing to do it quickly. That’s what I did. And I’d do it again. He was about to put Princess in danger of falling, not to mention that he could also have fallen from that close to the edge. It was a safety issue.

The next thing I know his mom comes running up shouting “Don’t you dare push my kid.”

I snapped at her that he was about to push my daughter off the ladder.

She replied (literally) “He’s only two, he doesn’t know better.”

I fucking lost it and began yelling at her. She yelled back. It was ugly.

(When I fight with my wife I don’t yell like this. I think the last time I yelled at someone this way it was at my brother when we were kids.)

After we were done (which included the parting shots as she was walking out of the park… she yelled at me to go to school to learn how to be a better parent and I called her a stupid bitch) I looked around to see that Princess and I were the only ones left. There had only been one or two other people before the incident, but they were long gone.

It was a completely unexpected reaction. I’ve gotten angry at strangers before, but never lost it to this degree. I was keyed up on adrenaline for a long while afterward. The adrenaline crash sucked. This is the fierce protective instinct I mentioned. This self-absorbed mother was putting my kid in danger by not paying attention, and then didn’t really seem to care.

Right away I talked to my daughter about my yelling and told her that I had been wrong to react that way. She’s not old enough to really understand (and seemed unfazed by the whole situation), but it was important to me to tell her that.

The next time I see LS’s stupid lazy mom I’ll apologize to her for yelling too.

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