Every time we take our daughter somewhere special I am reminded that I clearly don’t know the meaning of the word special. If we’re at the bakery getting cookies it’s “What’s for dessert?” If I let her watch a little TV it’s “can we get a movie?” If I remember to pick her up from school its “did you bring me a snack?”
And nowhere is this more evident than the playground. I will admit, the playground is not my favorite place. I’d rather be in front of my computer absorbing 1000s of images from Pinterest that will ultimately make me feel like the laziest woman alive. We go to the playground for her! There are swings, monkey bars, slides and sand galore! I’ll even get up one or two times to get water for wet sand, I’m just that kind of giving mother. But obviously all my effort is for not because the moment we hear that dreaded sound I’m brought right back to reality.
The damn ice cream truck is here.
We could be having a fairy princess party with dress up and actual live fairies flying all around, but if I don’t get her an ice cream the moment that truck (actually pretty creepy van) pulls up, then I am akin to the man who shot Big Bird.
And this is universal. The ice cream truck song is like a super hero beacon being shot into the night sky. No matter where the kids are – stomping in a forbidden mud puddle or king of the hill. What they’re doing – heading to China or stuffing sand in their brother’s diaper. How grown up they are – reading Wimpy Kid diaries on the bench behind you or using their paci to dig for cigarette buts. When the sweetly sickening twinkling sound of the ice cream truck permeates the playground sound scape, children drop everything and bee-line straight for their parents.
“Can I have money?”
“Can I have a Shrek pop?”
“Remember that I didn’t have fit at bath time last night so I get one, right?”
“Joany’s getting one!” (Damn Joany’s mom and her complete lack of parent solidarity.)
The playground is no longer a place of innocent fun and youthful experimentation. It might as well be a 56th story conference room towering over a metal skyline filled with the world’s toughest negotiators. Gap kids ensembles have turned into tiny people business suits. Their pails now briefcases filled with evidence to support their claims. Dirt rimmed mouths (that were clean when you got there so what the hell?) spewing argument after argument as to why they should have – NAY, have EARNED an ice cream.
There is a lone swing still rocking slightly from the child that once occupied it and claimed a turn for “infinity.”
I’ve tried all the tactics:
1. “I didn’t bring any money” “So get some from Billy’s mom. Here, I’ll ask her for you.”
2. “I brought watermelon instead for you! You love watermelon!” Barf noises, “Mom, watermelon is the most disgusting food ever. Don’t say watermelon to me ever again.”
3. “Okay.” “YAY! You’re the best mom ever!” followed by 20 minutes at the ice cream truck deciding what to get. Another 20 minutes crying that Joany got a better ice cream and that’s what she really wanted. Followed by 20 minutes of negotiating where the ice cream can be eaten (immediately followed by 20 minutes of crying after it’s fallen into the sand even though there had been an agreement about eating it on the bench). And the final 20 minutes of total sugar-induced mania and psychotic breakdown from withdrawal.
There is no good answer to the Good Humor construct. I’m frankly surprised that there hasn’t been a nation-wide parental petition to stop the arrival of ice cream trucks at playgrounds. We can get soda, sun tan lotion, and even the utterance of the word “nut” removed from school but we can’t do anything about the diabetes laden sugar tube our children are helpless to resist at playgrounds?
I blame the Good Humor deep pockets. I’ve seen the kind of money these people pull in and I have no doubt they are lining the pockets of state capital politicians and Washington lobbyists. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m contacted by some secret organization of the frozen sugar brotherhood after this post and threatened until I take it down.
So what I’m proposing instead is a “If you can’t beat them, join them” solution.
Behind every ice cream truck along the curb outside our playground fences we should now demand a bona fide sweet and delicious and oh so caffeinated coffee truck! As it arrives on the scene it will belt out a steel guitar version of “Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Its side will be plastered with pictures of caffeinated beverages named after our heroes – The Ross and Rachel latte double whip, The Michael Jordan drip with extra shot, The Bill Clinton – it just has extra foam
And upon its arrival children will be abandoned to pump for themselves. They’ll be left hanging in the middle of the treacherous rings. They’ll have to figure out on their own whose turn it is to have the pink shovel and yellow bucket and who will be forced to put up with the purple shovel and far inferior green bucket. Because we will be spending $5 a pop on our afternoon treat!
Sure we’ll neglect our children a little while we decide what delicious and life-affirming drink we’ll get and socialize as though it’s Seattle in the 90s. Yes, there’s a chance we’ll spill it in the sand making the playground that much nastier and attracting twice the number on already colonized pinworms. And so be it if our caffeine buzz gives way to an even nastier crash than our own kid’s sugar collapse. We’ve earned this – remember we didn’t throw a fit when we didn’t get our own bath time last night?!
Viva la Caffeine-Express!