At first, I was frustrated when you arrived. You tossed your bikes in the middle of the sidewalk and started running toward the playground. Great. I’ve brought my 2-year-old and 4-year-old to the park to play for a little bit. This is a park for little kids. You’re pushing your teens. And you’re also running through the play structure—flying by my little kids, leaving them wide-eyed and confused. And I’m stressing out.
Clearly you’re too old to be here. You take the steps three at a time and can’t even stand up when you’re on the platform. I don’t see your parents, and I’m annoyed that they let you just run around the neighborhood terrorizing my young children, or potentially hurting one of them. You’re wild and careless. Please watch out—you almost pummeled my 2-year-old as you made your way across the bridge. And my 4-year-old is watching you as you stand on the railing that is meant for safety. You’re putting them in danger now and possibly later as you make a poor example for obeying rules.
I don’t say anything to you since I don’t like parenting other people’s kids, and it’s about time for my kids and I to head out anyway. They reluctantly climb back into the stroller and off we go. I’m already rehearsing how I’m going to tell my friends about you and your disrespectful behavior.
And then it hits me. What exactly is my complaint? I guess there’s the obvious fact that you’re much too old to be at this park. And you weren’t acting in the safest manner. You could be more careful for your own personal safety and the safety of others. But what else do I have to say? As I go through the rant in my head, it just abruptly stops. I can see my friend’s blank stare as she waits for me to tell her the good part. The part where I make clear just how horrible it is that you came to the park today. But there’s nothing.
My rant is pointless because you’re good kids. School got out and you went to the park on a nice day. You’re playing Cops and Robbers with your friends. You’re not hanging out behind a strip mall smoking cigarettes. You’re not smuggling your grandpa’s Scotch into your friend’s basement. You’re not in front of your TV playing video games for hours and hours. You’re at the park, and you’re playing a game you’ve made up—a great example of using imagination, teamwork, and physical strength as you play. The conversation that you’re having doesn’t include language inappropriate for my kids. There’s really nothing I can complain about when it comes to you.
Thank you for coming to the park today. You’ve taught me a good lesson—not everything is black or white. Sure you’re too old to be on the park structure, but the big picture is so much more than this rule. You’ve reminded me that there are still good kids out there. You’ve proved the existence of a wholesome childhood—kids who like to play outside and who aren’t interested in trouble. You give me hope that my kids can have this childhood. One that isn’t tainted by misguided decisions and peer pressure. A pace free of adult pressures. Guided by (mostly) good decisions and free of hangovers. A childhood with only fictional cops and robbers, and that’s full of freedom, innocence, and love.
Keep it up, kids. You’re what the world needs. When my kids are older, I hope to find their shoes filled with sand, their imaginations as big as can be, and their hearts still full of childhood joy. I hope that they turn out like you, and as they tear through our park, I hope that the moms with their toddlers can find some understanding and pleasure in witnessing their most recent game of Spiderman vs. Supergirl.