I’m the playground Nazi, but no one knows it. I sit there gritting my teeth at the irritating things the other parents say and do, but I keep my mouth shut. I hardly want to be known as judgmental or high and mighty. But so much drives me crazy.

The kid with a green snot faucet sliming down his face while he plays with Aidan’s truck. (Such a nice mom…what was she thinking?)

“Why don’t you go on the slide, honey?” Pick up kid, place her on slide. Because I was perfectly happy sitting on my butt playing in the sand, jerk.

“WE SHARE, Jonah,” says dad, ripping the shovel out of his son’s hand and giving it to Caleb, as images of beating Caleb’s head in with said shovel dance through once-sweet Jonah’s head, images that would never have existed if it weren’t for his dad forcing him to “share” i.e. give his toy to another kid for no good reason except his dad made him.

“Good job!” The kid went down a slide. He did not win an Olympic medal.

And the winner. In a tone similar to Clint Eastwood’s Make My Day, addressed to an 18-month-old: “So, are you telling me we came all the way down here and you’re not even gonna go on that play structure, but just stand there at the…uh, uh…” He pauses to come up with the word for the ridiculous, uninteresting waste of time his son is incomprehensibly fascinated with. “…planter?!” Followed by a snide chuckle, meant to make other parents empathize with his plight, while they really (or at least I really) just thought he was bullying his sweet, smiling kid who luckily has not yet caved to his big jerk bully dad, who proceeded to follow him around for the next half an hour telling him what he should want to play with.

Not saying I’m perfect, but I do try to have some idea what makes Aidan happy instead of projecting my needs on him. If he wants to sit zenned out at the bottom of the slide all day, fine with me. (Yesterday, he wowed the dads by suddenly lying down in a perfect, relaxed supta virasana to gaze up at the sky. My friend Aimee said, “God he really is Harlan’s and your kid.”) If he wants to throw handfuls of sand up in the air that land in his hair and his clothes, I’ll give him a bath later. If he wants to go haywire on the play structure, I’ll follow him around. If it’s all slides all the time, great. If he’s more interested in the stairs, I’ll hold my breath as he takes them face first balls-out, loving it all the way. There will be plenty of time for me to impose my values and opinions on him (“homework before Simpsons,” “beer before liquor never been sicker,” “call home if you’re staying out all night”). For now, Jesus Christ, people, let the kid play!

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