DragonMonkey slams to a stop at the bottom of the plastic playground slide, dangling his legs over the edge and burying his feet in the sand, bracing himself with legs that have recently begun to look less like a toddler’s and more like a little boy’s.
He twists around, looking over his shoulder, and grins up at Squid expectantly.
Squid is on his belly at the top of the slide, and once he sees his older brother’s waiting grin, he wiggles forward, sending himself down headfirst.
The slide is slick, and the momentum catapults him into DragonMonkey’s back in a tangled slam of limbs that looks incredibly painful. The impact knocks the air out of both them, and they each give a little grunt.
There’s a pause, while they try to catch their breath, and then they both burst out into hysterical laughter.
DragonMonkey wiggles off the slide and races around to the steps, ready to start the whole thing over.
Squid, who is capable of walking but a little too lazy to learn how, crawls quickly after him.
They climb again.
DragonMonkey slides down first, then waits.
Squid wiggles down after him.
There’s a painful collision, an explosion of laughter, and then they race to do it again.
Over in the corner of the playground, on the new, child-safe, politically-correct, boring version of the teeter-totters, I see two moms eyeing me. Their daughters are playing politely, quietly, bouncing up and down in a controlled, sedate fashion. If their little girls are talking, I can’t hear it. They look like adorable, sweet, well-behaved little robots. Up. Down. Up. Down. The moms stand protectively beside the little girls, ready to steady them if it looks like they might slip. Up. Down. Up. Down. I’m kind of jealous.
From behind me, I hear the solid slam of body limbs and another screeching round of belly laughter.
Both moms glance my way, then away, trying to hide their looks of growing concern. Briefly, I consider trying to distract the boys into a less-violent form of play….. but they’re having so much fun.
I turn back to watch the boys, just in time to see another round of “SmashBrother” about to go down…. only this time, DragonMonkey has changed the stakes.
Instead of presenting the solid plane of his back for The Squid to crash into, he is standing on the ground in front of the slide, cocking one knee and placing his foot on the slide.
Squid is already laughing, excited by this change in the game, wiggling on his belly and trying to get enough momentum to send himself shooting face-first into DragonMonkey’s shin.
Oh. Crap. That’s not going to end well.
I lunge forward, shooting my arms between the protective slats of the slide that keep the kids from falling, just in time to grab Squid’s ankle as he starts to shoot down the slide. I’ve caught him, but that’s about all I can do – there’s no room to maneuver with my arm between the slats. He’s flat on his belly, arms extended in front of him, dangling headfirst down the slide. Confused, he turns his head to look at me, face beginning to turn slightly pink as gravity makes the blood rush to his head.
“DRAGONMONKEY, MOVE YOUR LEG.” I’m using my no-nonsense voice, because I can see the moms starting at me with horrified looks and I want to get this over with as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, the DM recognizes my “obey-now-or-suffer-the-wrath-of-mom” voice, and freezes with a deer-in-the-headlights look. He knows he’s doing something wrong, but he’s not quite sure how to correct it, so he decides to play it safe by not doing anything at all.
“MOVE YOUR LEG.”
He twists his leg slightly, as if showing off his calf.
I realize I need to be more specific.
“Sit down on the slide!”
Squidgelet is running out of patience – he’s been dangling patiently by one leg, but his face is now beet red, and he begins to squirm and whine.
Obediently, DragonMonkey hops up on the slide and sits on it – facing me, with his legs straight out in front of him.
“No, not like that! Turn around, so I can let go of your brother and he can smash into your back!”
Did I really just say that out loud?
The DragonMonkey freezes again, trying to figure out what I’m meaning. Squidgelet is actively thrashing now, and I can feel my grip on his ankle loosening.
I eye the drop at the end of the slide, and the steepness of the slide, and decide to take my chances. Maybe Squid will come to a stop before he goes off the edge into the sand?
“Off the slide, DM. Hurry! Get off the slide!”
Obediently, the DragonMonkey leaps off the side into the deep sand. I let go of Squidgelet’s leg, and watch helplessly as he slides down the slide…gains momentum… and shoots off the edge of the slide like he’s doing one of those escape-from-a-burning-building movie dives.
I’m moving as fast as I can to intercept him, but it won’t be nearly quick enough.
He soars an impressive distance from the slide before landing face-first in the sand. Apparently the ability to brace yourself with outstretched arms is a learned ability…probably brought on by face-first experiences such as this one. For a brief, almost comical moment, he’s actually stuck upright in the sand, rigid body at a 45 degree angle. He looks like a cartoon, or a little bitty human javelin.
I burst out laughing.
I mean, I don’t just sit there and point at him, laughing. Give me some credit. He’s stuck headfirst in the sand, not even able to breathe. I’m trying to get him as fast I can…..
But at that moment I can’t help myself. He just looks so funny.
And it’s at that moment, as I’m rushing forward, laughing at my poor kid suffocating in a pile of sand, that I happen to glance up the two moms.
It’s really hard to describe just how horrified they looked. Proper decorum completely forgotten, they both stand there, their own kids forgotten, staring at me with dropped jaws. I mean…wouldn’t you? Not only did I just dangle my one year old baby by an ankle and then drop him headfirst down a slide, but now I’m laughing at his misfortune.
Finally reaching the Squid, I kneel down and scoop him up, wincing at the sight of his sand-encrusted face. Even his nostrils are blocked by two tiny little plugs of damp sand, which I manage to mostly clear while he’s still drawing in breath for his first outraged shriek.
“Ssshhhh,” I say in my most soothing voice, trying to make up for the fact that I just laughed at him. “Awww, poor baby…shhhhh….” I’m using my sleeve to try to clear clumps of sand out of his eyes, ears, nose, and hair, but I can tell it’s going to be a long chore.
With a piercing shriek of a wail, Squid finds his voice, announcing to the entire playground that he is the victim a terrible, horrible, no-good, baby-throwing, misery-mocking mom.
I cuddle him to my chest and continue to soothe him, and take solace in the only fact that makes me feel like I can show my face in this park again:
I’m moving soon. In two months I’ll never have to see those moms again.